Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

October 15, 2020

Peter Lupus/Rock Stevens in GIANT OF THE EVIL ISLAND (Italy, 1965)

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American actor Peter Lupus, after his comic performance as muscleman “Rock Stevens” in the 1964 film MUSCLE BEACH PARTY, wound up making four films in Italy billed as Rock Stevens! The first three were traditional sword and sandal films, though all are first-rate and Lupus/Stevens was a much better actor than some of the bodybuilders who went to Europe to star in historical epics; the fourth, however, was NOT a muscle-rippling epic in the Hercules tradition: it was a historical swashbuckling adventure, GIANT OF THE EVIL ISLAND.

Il mistero dell’isola maledetta (aka Giant of the Evil Island)

Italy 1965, directed by Piero Pierotti

starring Peter Lupus/Rock Stevens as Capt. Pedro Valverde (voiced by Frank Latimore)

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I saw and enjoyed the film several times on UHF television back in the 70’s and 80’s, and it has always been the hardest to find of the four Italian films Lupus made before rocketing to international stardom on the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE tv show. Thankfully, Larry Anderson taped it off TV back in the day, and was kind enough to post it online, so now we all can enjoy it exactly as it would have looked on some low-wattage UHF station out of Tulsa in 1987. Re-watching the film this week, I consider it a classic of a sort, and having Lupus voiced by the great FRANK LATIMORE makes it even more impressive, as Latimore’s rich, sonorous stage-actor voice is always a pleasure to hear and gives the character a good amount of gravitas. Latimore always took these dubbing jobs seriously, and as with Edmund Purdom’s dubbing work, it’s an interesting and initially surreal experience to hear the voice of a recognizable movie star (as Latimore and Purdom were) dubbing someone else.

Here’s a review of the film I published online in 2003:

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exciting Italian 60s swashbuckler w/ Peter Lupus (Rock Stevens)
17 August 2003 | by django-1
After achieving fame in the film MUSCLE BEACH PARTY, actor-bodybuilder Peter Lupus, then using the stage name of Rock Stevens, made four sword-and-sandal/adventure films in Italy during 1964-65, all of which are worthwhile. I’ve always felt Lupus, during this period at least, resembled the young Sylvester Stallone, and he is very comfortable on-screen and a convincing actor, which no doubt landed him the role soon after this on TV’s classic MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. GIANT OF THE EVIL ISLAND, as the English-dubbed AIP-TV version of this film is called (which is panned-and-scanned), is NOT a sword-and-sandal film, but a costume swashbuckler where Lupus/Stevens plays Pedro, who becomes Captain of a ship when its older Captain retires and who is devoted to breaking up a lair of criminals led by one Maloch on a place called Evil Island. Pedro has TWO lovely ladies with whom he becomes intertwined: the shifty and scheming Alma and the good and true Bianca. The battles between ships are very well done for what must have been a moderate-budgeted film, and the sets and visuals are rich and colorful throughout. There’s a lot of exciting swordplay (which Lupus handles convincingly!), and overall it’s an exciting film and wonderful escapist entertainment. Director Piero Pierotti wrote and/or directed a few dozen films in the post WWII era, including such genre classics with American stars as PIRATE AND THE SLAVE GIRL and KNIGHT OF 100 FACES (both with Lex Barker), MARCO POLO (Rory Calhoun), the western HEADS OR TAILS (John Ericson–I’ll need to dig out my copy of that and review it) the amazing NIGHTSTAR: GODDESS OF ELECTRA/WAR OF THE ZOMBIES (great performance by John Drew Barrymore), and THE AVENGER OF VENICE (Brett Halsey). I noticed in the credits that this was shot in totalscope, so perhaps some future DVD release will be in widescreen as such a visually striking film as this should be appreciated in its original form. Still, the pan-and-scan VHS/DVD version floating around is worth watching, and all four of Peter Lupus/Rock Stevens’ Italian films are worth finding. The other three films are GOLIATH AT THE CONQUEST OF DAMASCUS, CHALLENGE OF THE GLADIATOR, and HERCULES AGAINST THE TYRANTS OF BABYLON
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The film is missing its opening credits and is presented in three parts below. Best to NOT watch this on anything larger than a computer screen:

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August 30, 2020

two episodes of COMEDY CAPERS

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Silent films are timeless. They are NOT sound films without sound. They are a different medium, perfectly complete within themselves. When I was working with young composers in their 20’s with the KSE label, I met a number of people in the experimental music community who were scoring silent films, people who viewed the medium as new and exciting terrain for them.

As for people in my age group (I was born in 1958), many of us got into silent films in two ways: 1) via packages of re-edited and re-contextualized silent comedies shown as filler on local TV stations and aimed at children (and children at heart….and people who remembered silent films), with new soundtracks and over-stated sound effects, with lots of slide whistles and cymbal crashes; and 2) via public TV showings of “classic” silent features in the 1960’s and 1970’s, focusing on the major stars of the era such as Valentino and Fairbanks and Pickford and Chaplin and Bow, but also on the great film classics of the silent era, such as INTOLERANCE or SPARROWS or THE BIG PARADE.

One well-known example of the former is the early 60’s series COMEDY CAPERS, an off-shoot of an earlier and similar series called MISCHIEF MAKERS, which contained footage from silent OUR GANG comedies, re-edited and with new sound effects. COMEDY CAPERS was another series from the same producing company, National Telepix. CC contained shorts from the libraries of Hal Roach and Mack Sennett and featured a wide variety of quality material, including Billy Bevan, Harry Langdon, Ben Turpin, The Keystone Kops, Charley Chase, Billy West, Mabel Normand, etc.

There were, of course, many other similar series, some of the local produced at the station level, showing cheap public-domain silent material from 16mm and using canned music. COMEDY CAPERS was in reruns for a number of years after its initial early 60’s run, continuing into the 70’s in some markets and into the 80’s overseas. It seems to have been a big hit in Brazil, as a number of the excerpts on You Tube have Portuguese subtitles. Also, any silent film fan knows that there is a devoted following for silent films today in Latin America as a whole, and many obscure silent films from the world over can be found online with Spanish and Portuguese inter-titles. Silent films truly are the universal film language–all you need is titles translated and there are no language barriers.

I’ve included links to two episodes of COMEDY CAPERS for your enjoyment, both chock-full of silent comedy gems. Yes, the music and sound effects are a bit over the top, but only a purist could object to that, and it certainly made these films more approachable to the 6 year olds and 9 year olds out there in TV land circa 1964 (or if in Brazil, 1980!).

Maybe they can still work as an entryway for silent films today!   Enjoy!

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August 6, 2020

MURDER ON APPROVAL (UK, 1955), starring Tom Conway

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MURDER ON APPROVAL (UK, 1955), released in Britain as BARBADOS QUEST

starring Tom Conway as Tom “Duke” Martin, a role he played after this in the 1956 feature BREAKAWAY

directed by Bernard Knowles, produced by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman

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Though Tom Conway played a variety of roles in his career, he is probably best known as THE FALCON at RKO in the 1940’s, and the various detective roles he played after that which traded on his Falcon fame and persona. He also played detective Mark Saber on television and was a superb Sherlock Holmes on radio, taking over for Basil Rathbone for the 1946-47 season, paired with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. Conway is the equal of Rathbone, which is high praise indeed coming from someone who considers the Rathbone/Bruce team as one of the all-time great screen detective/sidekick pairings.

The two films Conway made in the UK in 1955 as detective Tom “Duke” Martin were the actor’s final go-round as an above-the-title star turn riding on the wave of his work as The Falcon. Interestingly, the Baker-Berman production team here later were behind THE SAINT television series, starring Roger Moore. Perhaps if Tom Conway had been 15-20 years earlier, he could have landed that part. Clearly, the choice of Conway was Saint-related…. he was the brother of the best-known Saint film actor, George Sanders;  he played the Falcon, who was not unlike The Saint, in many popular and well-loved films; he played The Saint on radio, replacing Vincent Price in a number of episodes. He still radiates that same Saint/Falcon class and wit, though in more mature form here.

MURDER ON APPROVAL is a tight (67 minutes) and entertaining British crime programmer, which moves quickly, has a unique plot situation involving rare stamps and stamp counterfeiting….it’s not a murder mystery really, though there are people killed in the final third. Most of all, it benefits from the seemingly effortless wit and charm and elegance of star TOM CONWAY, who is teamed with a comedic ex-con sidekick Barney, played wonderfully by Michael Balfour, who fortunately returned in the second film in this series.

If you enjoyed any of Conway’s post-Falcon detective films or television work and you enjoy classic B&W British crime programmers, then you are sure to enjoy MURDER ON APPROVAL.

The good news is that it’s available in a beautiful print (under its UK title); the bad news is that it is divided into five parts, though that is not much of a hurdle to overcome.

Enjoy!

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If you are a Tom Conway fan (and who isn’t!), there is a review of his NORMAN CONQUEST (1953) UK detective film elsewhere on this blog. Just use the search box to find it.

Also, the serious Beatles fan will know that the director of MURDER ON APPROVAL, Bernard Knowles, was involved with the making of MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Perhaps he was the “professional” kept on the set to somehow bring the surreal stoner ideas of the boys to fruition on film. I’ll have to research that more….I do have a book on the making on MMT in the garage somewhere, which I have not looked at for 20 years. I’ll have to refresh my memory.

 

August 1, 2020

Won By A Sweet (1929, silent)

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won by a sweet

Recently, Mary Anne and I watched an interesting and entertaining 1929 silent short as part of a Zoom presentation from Washington University of St. Louis. Washington U was responsible for restoring the short from a 16mm print (though clearly, it was shot in 35mm) and the academic presentation included a screening of the film along with comments from the scholars involved in the restoration and research and also a person involved with the excellent new music score.

The film was commissioned by the National Confectioners Association to extol the benefits on candy, yet it was not a documentary, but a light comic action-adventure film, running about 23 minutes. Made in California by R. P. Young Productions, of Burbank (a name unknown to me), it very much resembles the low-budget productions of indies such as Rayart or Weiss Bros—-a competently made Hollywood product, with a professional cast, good editing, and competent direction. Alas, the film has no cast or crew credits, though some of the actors look vaguely familiar (the stocky man eating the meal, especially, I’m sure I’ve seen in comedy shorts). It’s very much in the style of the “collegiate” light comedies of the 1920’s, with the plot centering around two college track teams and how one of them learns the many beneficial qualities of CANDY and it helps them win. Only about 4-5 minutes of the film deal specifically with candy, and frankly, if you edited those out and the filmmakers shot a few scenes twice, once without the inclusion of candy, they’d have a superb 2-reel light action comedy.

As it was, the film was distributed in 16mm form free to schools, church groups, civic organizations, Boy Scouts, YMCA’s, etc. through the early 1930’s, and I’m sure it went over well. The two of us really enjoyed it….although we watch multiple silent films and shorts per week, so perhaps we aren’t representative of the general audience!

Washington University has made the film available online, so I hope I’m not violating anyone’s rights by making it available for you all here at the KSE blog. Acknowledgement should also be given to the National Film Preservation Foundation, who provided funding for the restoration.

It’s a fine way to kill 23 minutes, and any fan of low-budget silent cinema should enjoy it.

Wait until you learn about the “dental benefits” of candy. It certainly looks at that question from a perspective that no one other than a candy company or the most mercenary dentist would ever consider!

WON BY A SWEET (silent short, 1929, 23 minutes, two reels)

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If you’ve got some more time on your hands, you might want to watch another entertaining film financed by a sweets company, Coca-Cola: ALWAYS TOMORROW, from 1941.

I was engaged by a video company (thankfully, no longer in business!) to write a description of this back in 2005 for their catalog/website and (presumably) for the video box, which they did use but never paid me for, so I published the write-up online in 2006. Here is that write-up:

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strange in-house Coca-Cola dramatized documentary, plays like a Monogram or PRC feature
7 March 2006
ALWAYS TOMORROW, made in 1941 for the Coca-Cola company and presumably aimed at bottlers and potential investors in bottling plants and distributor-ships, belongs to that curious genre of film, the Corporate Feature. This is not a documentary or a training film, but a Hollywood-made narrative drama featuring a cast full of familiar B-movie faces (led by comedian Johnny Arthur as a fussy, worrywart accountant for a local Coca-Cola bottling plant), and it plays like a typical Monogram or PRC feature, except for the lectures to the audience (in the style of an exploitation film) about business philosophy. The film’s structure is strange in that it begins in 1941 with the story of Coca-Cola distributor Jim Westlake, and then works backward step-by-step until we reach the beginning of his career! You’ve probably never seen a film like this before, and you’ll learn a lot about the history of the soda business while being entertained.

 


And here is the film, which runs 51 minutes, MAYBE TOMORROW from 1941.

Enjoy….stay safe, at home watching films financed by candy and soft-drink companies!

July 23, 2020

selected 9.5 mm films online (1924-1936)

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95mm

Most fans of silent film hear about the 9.5 MM format whenever seemingly “lost” silents, particularly shorts, are sometimes “found” because they were made available in the UK on the 9.5 mm format for sale to those with home projectors. Obviously, it’s a better format than 8mm (8 and 16 were the favored formats in the USA), being a bit larger, and many shorts and cut-down features (and cut-down shorts!) were made available in the format for UK home-movie buffs.

With a little time to kill this afternoon, I was watching some 9.5 MM films made available by British collectors on You Tube, and I thought I’d share a few with you.

By the way, if you’ve got a LOT of time on your hands, Princeton University has made hundreds of  “Baby Pathe” shorts available online, in their Pathe Baby collection, many of them French. Over the last few years, I have watched hundreds of them (hey, I’d rather watch that than whatever’s on Netflix or Hulu), and it’s a rabbit hole that is easy to fall down into. Here’s that link:

https://library.princeton.edu/pathebaby/films

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Here’s a sampling of items including comedies, musicals, cartoons, and two interesting silent condensed features: a mystery, and a political drama. Enjoy! And many thanks to both those who bought the original 9.5 mm shorts for their family’s viewing, those who saved them, and those who collected and restored them….and put them online!

WILL ROGERS in “Don’t Park There” (1924)

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AMBROSE AND HIS ORCHESTRA featuring Evelyn Dall in “Soft Lights And Sweet Music” (1936)

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“STEVE” (from the UK Comic Strip ‘Come On, Steve’) in “Steve’s Treasure Hunt” (1936 cartoon)

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JIMMIE ADAMS in “An Accidental Champion” (1922)

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LILLIAN RICH and GASTON GLASS in “The Bickel Affair” aka Exclusive Rights (1926). This is a 30 minute condensed version of a six-reel (approx. 60 min.) feature film.

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BENITA HUME in “The Clue of the New Pin” (1929) Benita Hume is best-known to most Americans who know her as the wife of Ronald Colman, and she and Ronald appeared on many episodes of The Jack Benny Program on radio as Jack’s long-suffering neighbors, always trying to avoid him. Ms. Hume had a long background as a dramatic actress, but the Benny show displayed her gift for comedy. This is a 20 minute condensed version of an 80 minute feature film, based on a novel by Edgar Wallace.

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July 21, 2020

The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners, Volume 2: The Westerns (Classic Flix DVD)

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The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners, Volume 2: The Westerns (Classic Flix DVD)

contains the following  three  5-reel feature films

DUDES ARE PRETTY PEOPLE (1942)

CALABOOSE (1943)

and PRAIRIE CHICKENS (1943)

starring JIMMY ROGERS (son of Will Rogers) and NOAH BEERY, JR.

supporting players in the films include Joe Sawyer, Marc Lawrence, Iris Adrian, and many other greats


 

I loved the first collection of Hal Roach Streamliners, the Joe Sawyer/William Tracy military comedies (just do a search for “Streamliners” here at the KSE blog to read that write-up), and this second set follows up in fine form! Here is a recent online review I did of the set elsewhere….may as well get some more mileage out of it here!

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wonderful 45-minute western comedies with the team of Rogers and Beery
This second volume of Hal Roach Streamliners, 40-45 minute mini-features made in the early 1940’s for double-bills, collects three entertaining and funny western comedies featuring Jimmy Rogers (son of Will Rogers) and Noah Beery Jr. (known and loved by millions from playing James Garner’s father in The Rockford Files, a man whose career went back to the early days of the sound era). Rogers is a wonderful presence….lanky and with great slow-reaction comic timing. I could see Jim Varney at his most laid-back in this role. He’s essentially the straight man of the duo. Noah Beery Jr. is “Pidge” (Beery’s real-life nickname), and he has a weakness for “dude ladies,” and each film’s plot begins as the pair of cowpokes ride into a new situation and Beery gets smitten with some lady and tries to attract her, which sets the comic events into motion. I could watch Beery all day. His mugging and physical comedy is first-rate (he could have had his own series of silent-era comedy shorts, if he had been 10-15 years older), and his delivery of the lines is pitch-perfect. He had a great comic persona in films and he steals any scene he is in. Rogers and Beery are a great team, and I’m sorry they only made the three short features together, but each one is a gem….if you like western comedies, that is. Thanks to Classic Flix for releasing these Hal Roach Streamliners in excellent-quality transfers. Rogers and Beery are still able to work their magic on us today. Clearly, the Roach lot was still firing on all cylinders in the early 40’s, after Laurel and Hardy had moved on. “Streamliners” are the perfect length for viewing after a long day’s work. A highly recommended set!

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ORDER YOUR COPY NOW!

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Here’s the trailer from Classic Flix:

July 12, 2020

THE ISLAND MONSTER (Italy, 1954), starring Boris Karloff

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THE ISLAND MONSTER (Italy, 1954) starring BORIS KARLOFF

directed by Roberto Montero

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First of all, THE ISLAND MONSTER is not a horror film. The “monster” of the title is a monster in the broader sense—a narcotics kingpin whose organization is run from an island not far from the Italian coast. This film gets a bad rap, with people pointing out that it’s Boris Karloff’s worst film. Maybe it is. However, attacking a film such as this is like shooting fish in a barrel. Forgetting BK’s presence for a minute, it’s no better or worse than the average early 50’s low-budget crime programmer from Spain or Mexico or France or the UK….it’s kind of like an Italian version of a Lippert crime film. It’s competently photographed, the editing is not lazy, it mixes location shooting with interiors, the musical score is adequate, it has a convincingly seedy atmosphere as you’d want in a crime film about the drug trade, it has nightclub sequences (always a plus in a crime film), and it moves well. If you lived in Italy and this was at your local low-priced neighborhood theater on a double bill, it would be a good way to kill 85 minutes after a long work-week. People who complain about the film have probably not seen the bread-and-butter crime films of the period from low-budget producers in Latin America or Europe.

Then people complain about the dubbing. Yes, the dubbing sounds like a radio drama overdubbed onto an already existing film, which in a sense it is. However, dubbing was still a bit crude in the early 50’s, and again, this is typical of what you got in the period….no better, no worse. Anyone who watched old European B-movies on late night US television in the 60’s and 70’s can deal with the dubbing. For me, it does not get in the way. I’m used to it.

The reason most people have heard of THE ISLAND MONSTER is that Boris Karloff is in it. The reason the producers put the word MONSTER in the title is that Boris Karloff is in it. Undoubtedly, the producers felt that paying Karloff for 10 days work (or whatever) was worth the money in that the film could get overseas play dates it would not otherwise have gotten, and they were probably right, as it did get a US theatrical release on the drive-in circuit in 1957 (three years after its release) and from lobby cards I’ve seen, it was also released in Mexico. One problem of course is that the producers did not keep Mr. Karloff around to dub the English track, which would have added another 3 or 4 days work to his fee. With an actor with such a unique voice, this was a mistake. However, to the dubbers’ credit, they DID have someone do a Karloff imitation, which I suppose is better than a bland and anonymous voice. The ”imitation” is about as good as someone at your workplace doing a Cagney impression at the last office party, but at least you can tell who is being imitated. For someone watching this at 3 a.m. on a small black and white TV in 1965 on a UHF station in Great Falls, Montana, after a can or two of Olympia beer, it probably worked OK.

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Karloff gives a very enthusiastic, PHYSICAL performance in the film, perhaps knowing that he would not be heard. When we first meet him, the kindly older doctor who helps the poor, he’s all charm and warmth, with just a slight something “off.” Then he vanishes for about 25 minutes, and when he’s back, he’s a brutal, child-kidnapping drug lord. The main story follows a police investigator on the case of a drug ring whose trail seems to follow the travels of a certain nightclub singer. His child is kidnapped by the criminals. You’d think that they’d blackmail him, but that angle is left undeveloped after being briefly introduced. Also, the real climactic “work” on breaking the case is done by a dog!

More than anything, THE ISLAND MONSTER reminds me of some of the 1950’s Mexican crime programmers I saw on Spanish language TV in the early 80’s, in the early days of cable when networks had many hours to fill, and cheap older films were the perfect filler. My Spanish was just enough to follow the plot (unless you had a fast-talking character who used a lot of slang!)—it’s not like there is much originality in a crime film, so you weren’t thrown many curves. Those were also competently made, featured the usual character types, had nightclub sequences, and moved with a good pace.

Anyone who loves Boris Karloff’s work would probably enjoy watching THE ISLAND MONSTER, in the same way that Christopher Lee fans can watch the German SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DEADLY NECKLACE, in which he’s dubbed by someone else, and still appreciate the master’s presence and whatever good elements the film has (that one had excellent atmosphere—like the German Edgar Wallace adaptations of the period set in a Germanic faux-England). I’d enjoy this film for what it is—an entertaining way to kill 85 minutes—if it did not have Boris Karloff in it because I enjoy low-budget crime programmers, pulp crime stories, crime comics, etc. WITH Karloff in it, it’s just icing on the cake. In an interview, BK stated that he had a great time in the beautiful area where the film was shot. The hard-working Karloff deserved a nice vacation.

The 50’s were not the greatest period in Karloff’s career in terms of movie visibility. He worked primarily in television (though he had a lot of credits there), and his film credits were spotty—the odd SABAKA after this, the low-budget VOODOO ISLAND and FRANKENSTEIN 1970. It wasn’t until the British double-header of THE HAUNTED STRANGLER and CORRIDORS OF BLOOD that he started riding the wave of renewed attention that lasted until his death…and continues today, where he’s still revered as both one of the all-time greats of horror AND a first-rate character actor in non-horror films, even this one.

Oh, one nice touch…for those who make it to the end…is that in the final scene, Karloff is carrying the body of the kidnapped girl, running near the sea, and the scene is clearly a homage to the original 1932 Frankenstein, where the monster carries the girl who trusts him alongside the lake….and then drowns her.

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July 7, 2020

genre-film adaptations of HAMLET

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It’s always refreshing to be watching some “crime” or “western” or “adventure” or whatever kind of genre film and realize part-way through that it is a re-write of HAMLET, or MACBETH, or RICHARD III, or SISTER CARRIE, or CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, OR GREAT EXPECTATIONS or NATIVE SON or MOBY DICK or SILAS MARNER or some other classic of literature. Not only are the plots and characters time-tested with audiences spanning centuries and multiple cultures, they can provide a kind of template/foundation on which the screenwriters can build their own edifice. I’ve chosen two of my favorite re-writes of Hamlet below and linked to the entire film online. STRANGE ILLUSION never shows its hand–if you did not know Hamlet, you’d never know the film’s reliance upon it. You’d just think it was an excellent mystery with a creepy man who gets involved with someone’s father. JOHNNY HAMLET, on the other hand, even if you saw it under another title (as many did), shows its hand from the first scene, with the Shakespearean acting troupe and the actual lines from Hamlet itself. After that, though, it goes on its merry way re-casting Hamlet as an Italian western….and doing it very well.

Undoubtedly, many screenwriters were literature majors (as I was), and it’s good to see them getting some use out of those courses in Shakespeare or comparative literature or The Novels of Dickens and Eliot and keeping these precious archetypal stories and character types alive and refreshed.

Enjoy!

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STRANGE ILLUSION (PRC Pictures, 1945), directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, starring James Lydon, Sally Eilers, and Warren William  (genre: mystery-crime)

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Johnny Hamlet

JOHNNY HAMLET (aka The Wild and the Dirty, aka Quella sporca storia nel West….Italy 1968), directed by Enzo G. Castellari, starring Andrea Giordana, Gilbert Roland, and Horst Frank. Genre: Italian Western. In the US release of this, The Wild And The Dirty, which I used to own 20+ years ago, Giordana was billed as “Chip Corman.” That version was shorter than the version here, but it was entirely in English. Certain sections here which are in Italian with subtitles were in English in that version, although the drawback was that the copy of that version in circulation (I had a VHS from Grapevine Video, presumably taken from 16mm….it has not been in their catalogue for 20+ years now) was “stretched” in that it was transferred without using a widescreen lens/proper aspect ratio. It was a great version, but the people were eight feet tall. This European version (linked to below) has scenes not in the American version, and those scenes are visually rich and do add a lot to the experience of the film, however. The American version was trimmed to make it more action-oriented.

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July 4, 2020

TRAPPED IN TANGIERS (Italy-Spain, 1957), starring Edmund Purdom, directed by Riccardo Freda

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With the first scene taking place on the Tangier docks in the murky evening—-a sports car whose driver’s face is not clearly seen is extracting a gun from the car’s glove compartment—-and with a slow and moody jazz vocal (kind of a cross between Julie London or Anita O’Day at their most languid, trading lines with a mellow and bluesy muted trumpet) on the soundtrack from the start, you know immediately that the makers of AGGUATO A TANGERI (aka TRAPPED IN TANGIERS) understand what a crime film is expected to deliver. Nightclub scenes, rich people having tedious parties where they sit around and drink, Interpol agents looking at maps and discussing strategy, narcotics deals transacted in seedy alleys after midnight, a hero (Edmund Purdom) pretending to be someone else for the majority of the film—in fact, the way Purdom is nursing a drink, smoking cigarettes, and hitting on the ladies, it’s as if he took a page out of Eddie Constantine’s playbook! And there’s no better crime-film playbook than THAT in 1950’s Europe!

Director Riccardo Freda was a master in many genres, including classics of sword and sandal/historical adventure, Eurospy, Eurowestern, and Euro-horror (I VAMPIRI, and Barbara Steele’s THE GHOST, the sequel to HORRIBLE DR. HITCHCOCK). He does an excellent job here of channeling the best elements of 1950’s B&W French and British crime films into the visual style, and the film moves as quickly as the better Columbia B-crime programmers of the late 40’s and early 50’s.

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Star Edmund Purdom was at the beginning of his long and successful European career at this point, after his short Hollywood starring phase. He is mostly known nowadays by MGM completists and fans of Euro genre and exploitation films. Originally a British stage actor with a Shakespeare background (he’d been in Lawrence Olivier’s Shakespeare troupe!), he came to Hollywood right as the old-school star-making system was coming to an end. His first two major roles in American films were as replacements for other actors, Mario Lanza and Marlon Brando. Obviously, stepping in unwanted for someone else who is loved by the audience is not the best way to start one’s career push. Then he was in two big-budget historical spectacles (THE PRODIGAL and THE EGYPTIAN) that did not do as well as expected because the wave of widescreen historical films coming out after THE ROBE was winding down. He was excellent in his next film, THE KING’S THIEF (with David Niven, George Sanders, and Roger Moore), which allowed him to turn on his natural charm and show his gift for swashbuckling with a light comedic touch, but by then Hollywood had moved on, and his final Hollywood film was done at Allied Artists (MGM to Allied Artists! Wow!), the bizarre STRANGE INTRUDER, where he plays a character dealing with what would nowadays be called PTSD, put into an over-the-top melodramatic plot. He was chilling in the role, but the film was not exactly commercial—-after all, a film where an emotionally scarred veteran is on the verge of killing the children of his old war buddy is not exactly a date movie! In fact, with the Warner Archive having reissued a lot of Allied Artists’ output, it’s telling that they have not yet reissued STRANGE INTRUDER on DVD….even today it still keeps its power to alienate! Purdom left Hollywood for good at that point, and started working in Europe immediately after—and he never came back. He was a natural for the historical spectacles being made in Italy in the late 50’s and early 60’s—-he’d starred in REAL Hollywood epics, and he had the Shakespearean background, so if you needed someone to play King Herod or whoever, he was the man. He was also VERY active as an English language voice artist working in Rome on the export versions of Italian films. Dozens of times I have been watching some dubbed film and suddenly, the rich, British stage-actor tones of Edmund Purdom start coming out of someone else’s mouth.

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TRAPPED IN TANGIERS was Purdom’s first film after STRANGE INTRUDER, and it was eventually released in the US in a dubbed version, a few years after its making, although I’ve never seen that English language version offered on the grey market or shown on cable TV or UHF. I have an Italian-language copy taped off European Cable TV in the middle of the night. Purdom is excellent and exudes star quality, whether grinning on the beach trying to seduce a young lady of affluent background, or maneuvering his way through the dark backstreets of the Tangiers waterfront, gun in hand. We’re not sure exactly who his character is until the film is 2/3 of the way through, but at that point, everything that’s happened earlier falls into place. This also features one of my favorite set-ups in a crime film, which has been done so often, I’ve come to expect it when someone is working undercover and posing as a criminal to get “inside” the organization: the inevitable scene where to show his allegiance to the mob, he is asked to kill the person who is ALSO an undercover agent and has been outed and caught. TRAPPED IN TANGIERS, though probably written off in its day as a formula crime film, was an excellent vehicle for Purdom to show other sides of himself that were not an display in his Hollywood work. I’ve seen him in dozens of European films and will probably review some more here eventually (don’t forget that he was the headmaster of the school in the early 80’s Spanish slasher film PIECES). People often write him off as either hammy and over-the-top, or wooden and unconvincing (how could you be BOTH of those things?), but I beg to differ.

With the exciting drug smuggling plot, mysterious waterfront setting, jazz score, crisp B&W photography, car chases, back-stabbing and double-crosses, and the cool and magnetic presence of Mr. Purdom, TRAPPED IN TANGIERS delivers the goods that I want in a 50’s European crime melodrama. The fact that it’s in Italian and not dubbed English just adds to the atmosphere, and this is a film with atmosphere to burn!

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July 2, 2020

Wanted: Sabata (Italy 1970), starring Brad Harris

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:18 am
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WANTED: SABATA (Italy 1970)

starring Brad Harris and Vassili Karis

directed by Roberto Mauri

note: I recently acquired the “sequel” to this film, DURANGO IS COMING: PAY OR DIE!, which is a sequel in the sense that it’s from the same production company, Three Stars Films, and also stars Brad Harris. I hope to write about it some time in the future (I’ve watched it twice and it’s quite entertaining and also quite different in tone from its predecessor), but until then, here is a review of WANTED: SABATA I published elsewhere online a year or two ago….hope you find it interesting and worthwhile!

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Originally from Sicily, director Roberto Mauri was involved with many worthwhile sword and sandal films and westerns in the 1960’s……and he continued on, doing whatever genre of film was in fashion at the time. 1968-69 alone saw him doing the great western with Tab Hunter SHOTGUN, the beyond-belief KING OF KONG ISLAND, and one of the late-period Kommissar X films, THREE GOLDEN SERPENTS aka Island of Lost Girls, the latter two starring BRAD HARRIS, an American who was quite successful as a sword and sandal star (his FURY OF HERCULES and SAMSON sold tens of thousands of copies each in the early days of VHS) then Eurospy star then Eurowestern star. Harris was also a stunt director who had a background working with second-unit (action) work and as an athlete himself did a fine job of fight choreography. As a lead actor, he had a strong presence and the gravitas needed to play Hercules/Maciste, but he also could radiate a real charm, and in his Kommissar X films with Tony Kendall he had a great sense of humor. Having worked with Mauri before, he was a natural choice for leading man for this low-budget formula Eurowestern made in 1970.

One thing the viewer notices in 1970-71 lower-rung Eurowesterns is how they were no longer being shot in Almeria, Spain—-no more of those endless, expansive stretches of barren imitation US Southwest/Northern Mexico. Instead, they were shot within driving distance of Rome in wooded areas where they could be found (and they weren’t that large when they were found), so the films had a very different look, and with the landscape being a huge presence in the earlier films, with a sense of dread and foreboding and bleakness, the later films had a different FEEL.

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Also, there seems to be by 1970 fewer of the operatic, Gothic touches one would have seen in films from 1966-1968. Individual directors would still have their own unique styles (Gianfranco Parolini, aka Frank Kramer, who’d worked a lot with Brad Harris in the early-to-mid 60’s, for instance, played by his own rulebook in the early 70’s), but there were a number of relatively straight-forward, bread and butter westerns that moved from Point A to Point B relatively simply, with the kind of matter-of-fact approach one would see in the series B-Westerns of the 1930’s and 1940’s—westerns that were made because there was an audience wanting to see them and which were ground out  quickly by people who had an intuitive feel for the genre. By 1970, the Eurowestern had its core audience both in Europe and abroad, people who would pay to see anything that resembled what they were expecting, and modest-budgeted films (no expensive location shooting in Spain!) that had few pretensions but delivered the goods had a niche market.

WANTED: SABATA is one of those. The plot could be written on a napkin in magic marker. It could be from a 1930’s Bob Steele western (one where the plot DID NOT involve Bob on the revenge path because his father was killed). Sabata (played by Brad Harris), a simple rancher who’d had some trouble earlier in his life and is trying to rebuild things for himself, is tagged for destruction by someone who sold Sabata some land and wants it back (or something like that….my Italian is not good and the subtitles are minimal, and based on what I do know, not always accurate). This character (Jim Sparrow) is played by Greek actor Vassili Karis, and to say he’s over the top is an understatement. In a 30’s western, the character would probably be played by Wheeler Oakman (as in THE MAN FROM GUNTOWN, with Tim McCoy), at his leering, twitchy best. Just in case you weren’t sure HOW bad a person he is, in the first three minutes of the film, when Sparrow’s brother takes him to task for being so maniacal in his hatred of Sabata, who has done nothing wrong, Sparrow blows his brother away….and then pins the murder on Sabata. Sabata is captured, escapes, flees, and hides out in the hills while plotting his strategy and eventually gets justice. Well, kind of…..a Roy Rogers kind of justice that might seem unsatisfying to Eurowestern fans who grew up on those immortal lines from the trailer of DEATH RIDES A HORSE, “when you’ve been searching fifteen years for a man, it’s a shame you can only kill him once!”

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Brad Harris does not get good notices from the few who have written about this film, but he and the director have clearly decided for him to under-play the part, a la Gary Cooper or Randolph Scott. I feel that Harris is a strong enough presence to pull the viewer in, in the way a Randolph Scott or a Charles Bronson could, but you the viewer can decide for yourself.

Not sure that this was ever given an English dub. I watched it on You Tube in Italian with minimal English subtitles. You’ll have no problem following it. I first watched it last summer, when I was in El Paso, and my wife was busy with her Mom running some errands…..I borrowed her tablet and watched it on that while the ladies were out for the afternoon. I’ve now watched it a second time, and I do think that people who enjoy a straightforward Spaghetti Western that is full of action and suspense, has a decent musical score, and moves quickly will find this to be 90 minutes of their life not wasted. Also, Brad Harris has many fans (Mr. Harris just passed away in 2017), and his westerns are not as well known as his sword and sandal and his Eurospy films. Considering this is up for free on You Tube in an OK quality widescreen copy, what are you waiting for?

Oh, this character has zero to do with the Sabata of Lee Van Cleef (or the Sabata through dubbing after the fact of Yul Brynner). Like the many cut-rate Django ripoffs and Sartana ripoffs—or the many Italian “Maciste” films which became Hercules films when dubbed into English–they just took the name and hoped it brought a few more patrons into the theater. For me, that just adds to the charm.

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June 23, 2020

I CANNOT, YET I MUST by Anders Runestad (Radiosonde Books)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:37 am
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I CANNOT, YET I MUST: THE STORY OF…ROBOT MONSTER

by ANDERS  RUNESTAD

published by Radiosonde Books, 683 pages

available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-cannot-yet-i-must-anders-runestad/1123330634?ean=9780692576625

visit the author’s website at https://runestadwrites.com/

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THE SURVIVING FEATURE FILMS DIRECTED BY PHIL TUCKER:

ROBOT MONSTER (1953)

DANCE HALL RACKET (circa 1954)

DREAM FOLLIES (circa 1954)

BAGDAD AFTER MIDNIGHT (circa 1955)

TIJUANA AFTER MIDNIGHT (circa 1955)

BROADWAY JUNGLE (circa 1955)

THE CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS (circa 1960)

(PRESENTLY) LOST FEATURE FILMS DIRECTED BY PHIL TUCKER:

SPACE JOCKEY (circa 1953)

PACHUCO (circa 1957)

A book about maverick independent film-maker PHIL TUCKER is long overdue. Rob Craig, author of excellent analytical books on the films of Larry Buchanan, Andy Milligan, and Ed Wood—-and a fellow Phil Tucker fan—-told me a few years ago he would love to someday do a similar book on Tucker’s films, but now seemingly out of the blue a massive and massively-researched book on Tucker’s works and career came in 2015 from Anders Runestad, and until one of Tucker’s lost films surfaces, it’s surely the last word on Mr. Tucker and his body of work and the milieu in which he labored. The author spent a decade researching the subject, and does it show! He’s combed through local newspapers from areas where Tucker lived and worked, he’s talked to the surviving people who worked with or knew (or knew people who knew!) Tucker, he found interviews with people who knew Tucker but have passed away, he gained access to Tucker’s personal notes and some tape-recorded interviews, he worked with Tucker’s son to get his memories and details, and he even got access to the script from Robot Monster, and a huge chunk of the book is devoted to an analysis of the script and how it differs from the finished film. This is how a film book should be researched and written.

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Lenny Bruce (center) and Timothy Farrell (R) in DANCE HALL RACKET

In my earliest days with VHS home video, say the mid 1980’s, I had only a handful of films, many of them so-called “cult films” that weren’t yet in general circulation, and the one I watched perhaps more than any other was Phil Tucker’s DANCE HALL RACKET. I would guess I watched it 30-40 times (by the way, I see from this book that there are THREE distinct versions of the film—-mine was the one without the repeated footage and without the copyright notice in the credits). Not only do I have the film’s many lines memorized, my family members do. Even today, decades later, I will raise an eyebrow to my wife, and suggest we take “a trip to Hawaii.” Out of the blue, I may say in a scratchy, whiny voice, “hey, Mr. Scali,” and I’m fortunate to have friends who will catch an “Icepick” reference, if I make one.

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What impressed me most about DANCE HALL RACKET was not only its entertainment value, the jazzy library music score, and the quirky characters who seem to exist in some kind of alternate universe that I very much want to be part of….but especially the fact that a feature film that’s a crime film could be made so cheaply, yet still put a smile on my face and have me consider it an hour well-spent (multiple times).

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It’s nice to learn that Phil Tucker did not come to a sad end, the way some other cult-film figures did, but he was able to work his way into the larger (legitimate) film industry…and also to learn that  he was an affable, good-natured kind of fellow. His sense of humor comes through in his work.

There’s also a long and detailed analysis of what is in many ways Phil Tucker’s most fascinating work, BROADWAY JUNGLE (see pic below).

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BROADWAY JUNGLE is a true piece of outsider cinema, which is interesting because clearly Phil Tucker COULD make a competent micro-budget exploitation film within the traditional parameters of the z-grade grindhouse and drive-in market. BROADWAY JUNGLE almost resembles something by Andy Warhol from 8-10 years later. Even today, the film gives off an uncomfortable vibe, as if you shouldn’t be watching it, while at the same time being full of broad humor….and a lot of slaps in the face of pretentiousness  in the film industry in all its forms.

And speaking of drive-ins, the author’s research has  uncovered how much long-term drive-in action even the most obscure 50’s exploitation films got in backwater towns across the nation. I was never aware how many tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands, paid to see something like GIRL GANG or DANCE HALL RACKET or the AFTER MIDNIGHT series, even well into the early 60’s.

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I haven’t even mentioned ROBOT MONSTER, Tucker’s first film (actually, it was an ambitious start—- a 3-D movie that dealt in its own way with very serious themes and got some industry attention in its day, also an early credit for one of my favorite actors, George Nader, who ALWAYS knew exactly what level to pitch his performance on, when he was working in genre-films), which is the book’s main focus. Not only do you get the script, but a deep analysis of how it was shot, scene by scene, what was cut, what was adapted for the final version, etc.

Let’s hope someone someday does a restoration of CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS, although that’s not that likely as it’s in a kind of rights limbo. Perhaps some filmmaker or video company owner with money can make it a passion project….it would be great to see that film in an acceptable form, not the murky, dupe-y version presently floating around.

Anyone who has enjoyed ANY of  Phil Tucker’s films—-and pretty much EVERYONE who has an interest in vintage exploitation films or cult films has enjoyed more than one, I’m sure—will be amazed that this book exists and how much first-hand reportage it contains. You’ll also learn a lot about Tucker-related figures such as Wyott Ordung and Al Zimbalist, both of whom are colorful and fascinating figures. I never thought I’d have my long-time questions about the 1954 film SERPENT ISLAND starring Sonny Tufts answered….and answered in a book about Phil Tucker, who had nothing to do with the film! Phil Tucker has always been in a class of his own, IMHO. This book is a worthy document to his memory.

In case you’ve never seen Tucker’s DANCE HALL RACKET, it’s available below, via You Tube. Who cares if the credits fonts don’t match and the director often lets the master shot provide primary coverage of the scene played out in front of the camera. This is pure entertainment: Lenny Bruce was clearly a big fan of the Bowery Boys’ Leo Gorcey and performs his role accordingly, while the great Timothy Farrell (see pick of the two of them below), who is ALWAYS worth watching, shows once again why he is the Brian Donlevy of low-budget exploitation films. Phil Tucker and the actors here knew exactly what they were doing and what their audience expected….give the film a few laughs and a few cheap thrills, and a grimy overall feel (it’s supposed to be a crime film, after all), and people will go home (or drive home from the rural drive-in) satisfied. Viewers intuitively knew that this was a grungy exploitation film and did not expect it to, or want it to, resemble some studio film. It’s kind of aiming at the level of, say, a Lippert or Monogram or PRC crime film, but with 1/8 the resources those poverty row outfits had.

If it helps, just imagine you are watching each scene performed in five feet in front of you on a tattered small stage in a basement somewhere by some local fringe theater group.

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I CANNOT, YET I MUST: THE STORY OF…ROBOT MONSTER is the most interesting and best-researched book on exploitation films I’ve read in the last few years (and no, I do not own and have not read the massive Andy Milligan tome that came out recently, though I have that author’s earlier book on Milligan). It has my highest recommendation!

……….

June 18, 2020

Grief Street (1931)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 7:39 pm
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GRIEF STREET (Chesterfield Pictures, 1931)

directed by Richard Thorpe (a regular at Chesterfield in the early 30’s, Thorpe directed 187 films between 1923 and 1967, including the Elvis films JAILHOUSE ROCK and FUN IN ACUPULCO)

Chesterfield Pictures released 120 films between 1925 and 1936. They started out in the mid-20’s with low-budget westerns, some directed by Horace Carpenter, best known today for his acting turn as the mad doctor in Dwain Esper’s MANIAC (1934). By the late silent and early sound days, Chesterfield had a distinctive house-style, specializing in murder mysteries, often of a “drawing-room” nature. The early sound features were often made on existing sets on the Universal lot, which gave the films an elegant look, certainly by B-programmer standards, and the films were also well-cast, full of talent from the silent era, who retained name appeal and facial recognition. Contrary to the stereotype of silent actors not adapting to sound (though there are certainly examples of that), the majority made the transition, although major players in the silent era sometimes became supporting players in sound….or even uncredited day players by the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Many of them did bring a kind of old-fashioned stage-y acting style to sound films (think of leading men turned supporting players such as Robert Frazer), but that suggested old-school elegance to early 30’s Depression-era audiences and was appreciated, at least according to my parents, who were teenagers at the time and told me about that perception, and according to write-ups in the trade magazines of the day. If Chesterfield was going for an “elegant” moderately budgeted product, then shooting on Universal soundstages and using old-school silent-era actors helped achieve that feel.

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All of the principals in GRIEF STREET have excellent credentials…. the murder victim, a conceited ham actor, is played by Crauford Kent, who was Silas Marner in the 1920’s adaptation of the George Eliot classic, and also appeared in the same role in both the silent and sound versions of George M. Cohan’s SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE… the leading lady, who is a kind of mysterious character, an former understudy, is played by Barbara Kent, star of the 1928 expressionist masterpiece, Paul Fejos’s LONESOME, who retired from the screen not long after this feature…. the leading man, John Holland, who plays an investigative reporter who helps solve the murder case, had co-starred the year before with Lupe Velez in HELL HARBOR…. the unhappy wife of the murder victim is played by Lillian Rich, born in England, who’d starred in Cecil B. DeMille’s THE GOLDEN BED in 1925 and had many featured roles throughout the 20’s, but by 1932 was leading lady in a Bob Custer indie western….Lafe McKee, a face and voice instantly recognized by western fans, had 450 acting credits going back to 1912, and here he plays the one-time actor, down on his luck, who has stayed with the theater life as a kind of building supervisor for this house who pretty much does every unglamorous job that’s needed, along with delivering some crusty and weather-beaten soliloquies about the nature of life. Then there are the players who would go on to greater things…. the murdered actor’s unhappy wife is played by Dorothy Christy, later known to millions as Leon Errol’s wife in many of Errol’s RKO comedy short….and as a stuttering fellow reporter at the newspaper, the young Walter Brennan, future three-time Academy Award winner and a man whose acting style (not too much in evidence here, with the stuttering routine imposed upon him) and speech patterns are a genre unto himself.

As someone who is a regular watcher and reader of murder mysteries, I must give this one credit for being well-constructed, with every piece of evidence right there in front of the viewer. In fact, it’s a LOCKED ROOM mystery, and those are always hard to pull off successfully. After the final scene of his present play (which we see performed onstage at the film’s start), the lead actor goes to his dressing room after the show. The entire time his dressing room door is within view of McKee, the house manager who is at his desk, and then fifteen minutes later he is dead, with the cord of his dressing gown around his neck. There are no other entrances or exits to the dressing room—-the door was never out of McKee’s sight. How could that happen? Well, there are no cheats here, no last minute revelations the viewer could never had anticipated, the way there are in some lesser B-murder mysteries (some of the lesser Monogram Charlie Chans, for instance). As with a magic trick, you see everything that’s relevant—-it’s just the magician’s sleight-of-hand that has you perceive what you see in such a way that parts of what you see don’t register as being significant.

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With the old-school formal acting style of the leads, with the limited number of sets, and with the dialogue-heavy, early-sound script, GRIEF STREET plays a lot like a stage drama.

With the Covid lockdown, Mary Anne and I have been watching a number of  “staged readings” of plays online, via Zoom, so perhaps we are getting used to this kind of mannered, stage-bound presentation, but GRIEF STREET is a great way to spend 63 minutes for the murder mystery fan.

Actually, virtually any of the early to mid 30’s Chesterfields I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a few dozen) are worth watching. Some are better than others, but they rarely disappoint….unless you judge them by 2020 standards. In the 1933-35 period, a number of them starred upcoming actor CHARLES STARRETT, before his western stardom at Columbia Pictures. A Dartmouth football star before going onto the stage, the lanky Starrett often played a kind of Ivy League type in these films, quite a bit different from his 131 western feature films, many in his “Durango Kid” persona.

The Chesterfield films are in the Public Domain, and many are on You Tube. Sinister Cinema also offers at least SIX multi-film sets of Chesterfield productions in very good transfers. However, there’s no need to delay. GRIEF STREET is waiting below for you…

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BARBARA KENT

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JOHN HOLLAND

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Watch the 1931 Chesterfield film GRIEF STREET (63 minutes):

 

June 17, 2020

The Wild Weird World of Dr. Goldfoot (November 1965)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:34 am
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THE WILD WEIRD WORLD OF DR. GOLDFOOT, Episode 19 of Season 2 of the SHINDIG TV show, aired Wednesday 8:30 PM Nov 18, 1965 on ABC

Starring Vincent Price and Susan Hart, with Aron Kincaid, Tommy Kirk, and Harvey Lembeck. B&W, running time 29 minutes

For many years, this odd Television special made to promote American International Pictures’ film DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE (starring Vincent Price as Dr. Goldfoot), which aired 2 weeks after the initial release of the film (AIP drive-in films  had a LONG shelf-life, playing here and there for years after their initial run, as second and third features with other AIP product), was much-more talked about than seen. I’m not sure it’s ever received a legitimate video release on VHS or DVD–surprisingly, it’s NOT on the Kino-Lorber Blu-Ray of the film from 2015 (which some of the customer reviews on Amazon angrily note!). I first saw it on a blurry home-made VHS someone loaned me back in the 90’s.

Fortunately, an adequate quality copy of the show IS available on You Tube, and if you’ve got 29 minutes to kill (see bottom of page), it’s a fascinating window into sixties trash culture at its most unashamed, and it sits nicely beside features like the spy parody OUT OF SIGHT, or Jerry Warren’s THE WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN, or Al Adamson’s PSYCHO A GO-GO, or Ray Dennis Steckler’s RAT FINK-A-BOO-BOO.

Most importantly, it’s 30 prime-time minutes of Vincent Price at his most campy, which you may not have seen before. Who wouldn’t want that?

Whereas the actual DR. GOLDFOOT feature film was in color and had a relatively good budget by AIP standards, this show is in black-and-white and clearly shot on a few modest stages. Also, the film’s wonderful theme song, which AIP spent the money to get The Supremes to sing, is still wonderful on the TV show, but sung by someone else.

Price and Hart return from the original film, but instead of Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman as co-stars, the TV special offers us other AIP contract stars, Aron Kincaid and Tommy Kirk, both true professionals who are quick studies and get some laughs out of their no-doubt quickly written dialogue. Harvey Lembeck, though a staple of AIP’s Beach Party movies (remember Eric Von Zipper?), did not have a huge role in the Goldfoot feature film, but he’s the in-your-face comic relief here, and his shtick is played so broadly that even someone with a 9″ TV screen would not miss anything. He even gets a “song” here! I’ve always enjoyed Lembeck (who also had a great career in animation voice work), but his Jerry Lewis meets Buddy Hackett persona is not universally loved, and his dynamic presence is too dynamic for some. Try this clip from HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI and you’ll instantly know whether Lembeck is to your taste:

The TV special features a few musical numbers which were cut from the feature film, and the characters played by Aron Kincaid and Tommy Kirk were not in the original film in any way, and here they’re given their own subplot, which probably allowed for Vincent Price not having to do as much. Price had a 10-year run with AIP in the sixties and was by far the studio’s biggest and most long-term star, although he always worked elsewhere too. I had the privilege of seeing him on the stage and meeting him once, in the late 70’s or early 80’s, when he was doing his one-man show as Oscar Wilde at Elitch Gardens in Denver (I went with my father). Price was charming, friendly, witty, made YOU feel important, and stayed around after the show until everyone who wanted to talk with him or get an autograph had time to do so. I’d guess he was happy to help promote the Goldfoot film with this inexpensive TV musical knockoff, considering his longterm employment with AIP. If they did well, he did well, and he had more money to spend on art!

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As a fan of maverick Texas director LARRY BUCHANAN, I can’t help but point out that in the three years after this TV special, Aron Kincaid and Tommy Kirk both worked for Buchanan in Texas (no doubt as part of their AIP contracts, since AIP financed and distributed via TV packages Buchanan’s Azalea Productions features), Kincaid in CREATURE OF DESTRUCTION, alongside Les Tremayne, and Kirk in both MARS NEEDS WOMEN and IT’S ALIVE.

There was a second DR. GOLDFOOT feature film, DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS, made in Italy the next year, with Price returning in the role, for director Mario Bava, and with Fabian and comedy duo Franco & Ciccio added to the mix. It was quite a bit different from the first entry, with more of a slapstick Eurospy feel (no surprise, as it was Italian-made!) and a healthy dose of the Adam West BATMAN TV series. Here’s the trailer…decide for yourself….if you’re in the right mood after a long day, it might be just what you need:

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Now, to get back to the original subject here…. the original, once-rare November 1965 THE WILD WEIRD WORLD OF DR. GOLDFOOT TV special, just a click away….enjoy!

June 16, 2020

Dean Reed in “Buckaroo: The Winchester Does Not Forgive” (Italy, 1967)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:36 am
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BUCKAROO: THE WINCHESTER DOES NOT FORGIVE (Italy, 1967)

starring DEAN REED with Livio Lorenzon

directed by Adelchi Bianchi (his last film, of only 4 directorial efforts, the previous being LOST SOULS from 1959, with Jacques Sernas and Virna Lisa, which did get a US release)

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BUCKAROO was Dean Reed’s first European film and his first Euro-western (right before GOD MADE THEM, I KILL THEM! and a few years before ADIOS SABATA, the only one of his Euro-westerns to get a US theatrical release), and the role of Hal/Buckaroo was a great breakout role for him in European genre films. He enters the film gradually as the main plot gets locked into gear (although his bravado performance of the theme song during the credits certainly makes it clear whose film this is!) and gradually takes control, with Reed never losing his inimitable laid-back charm. The villain is played with gusto by Livio Lorenzon, well-known from many roles in sword and sandal and costumed-adventure films earlier in the 60’s (some of which have been reviewed here), there’s a secondary villain working for his own purposes, the sheriff is corrupt, and near the end of the film an ironic twist from the past is divulged, to add even more satisfaction to the climax.

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I had not seen any of the four films directed by Adelchi Bianchi prior to this, but he’s quite impressive, keeps the camera moving, frames shots in a way to imply more than what’s being depicted on-screen (one wonders if he has any background in still photography, with his gift for framing), and gives Reed a good bit of space as a performer.

Also, the film is set in the world of mining (as is the great 1968 THE RUTHLESS FOUR, with Van Heflin, Gilbert Roland, George Hilton, and Klaus Kinski, one of my top-five Eurowesterns), which gives it a distinctive feel.

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The film builds tension masterfully, and it’s easy to see why Reed went on to star in a number of westerns while in Europe (though not as many as I would have liked) after making such a strong introduction here. Undoubtedly, films such as this also played well in Latin America, where he had a large fan base.

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We need to remember that for all intents and purposes this was Dean Reed’s first starring role of any significance….from what I’ve seen of his two Latin American features made in 1965, he’s not having to carry the film. In BUCKAROO, from his early scenes, when he decides to stay and help a down-on-his-luck miner and then stands down the corrupt sheriff who suggests he leave the area, it’s clear that Reed was remembering the advice of his acting coach and mentor Paton Price, back in Hollywood six or seven years previously, who’d emphasized how film acting was about totally being present in the moment in the scene, losing oneself in that filmic moment and bringing everything one had to it….Reed understood that this was his one chance to establish himself as an actor and film personality on a new continent, and you can feel that self-discovery here in BUCKAROO.

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Presently, there are NO reviews of Buckaroo on the IMDB! It’s nice to know that in 2020 one can still discover gems such as this….and in a first-rate print.

If you’re not already a fan of Reed, I’d hope you would be after watching BUCKAROO, and there is a link to the film below. It runs 88 minutes, so settle back and let it take you away….

For more reading, here are two reviews on the KSE blog of other Dean Reed films:

my review of Reed’s 1969 film DEATH KNOCKS TWICE

my review of Reed’s 1970 film THE CORSAIRS

In the coming months, I hope to have a write-up on his 1968 turn as Zorro (!!!!) in a Franco & Ciccio vehicle, though I’m watching it in untranslated Italian, so I’m taking my time and watching it more than once….VERY entertaining, and Reed is a great Zorro, though this blond from Colorado does not look the way one usually expects Zorro to.

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single from 1976 on the East German “Amiga” label

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Dean Reed’s 1959 Capitol single “I Ain’t Got You” (b-side of A Summer Romance):

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Dean Reed guest stars on a 1961 episode of the BACHELOR FATHER  TV show….and sings….in fact, he sings the same song four times (!!!) and introduces the competitors at a majorette competition! Between the second and third time he sings the song, there is a lounge-y version of the soundtrack from the man who did the show’s music, John(ny) Williams—-that’s right, film composer John Williams, back in his TV days. A shame that “Twirly, Twirly” is not one of Dean Reed’s better Capitol records, but it fits the plot, which is no doubt why he was brought in to sing it.

Note: start watching at about 17:50 for Dean, singing “his latest hit” (as it’s announced)… otherwise, the show has not dated well and I’d not recommend watching it….although John Forsythe is a joy to watch in anything, and you might want to catch him in either of his two films for Alfred Hitchcock, THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY or TOPAZ, neither of which are typical Hitchcock.

 

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Dean Reed sings “Wandering Girl” in the 1965 Argentinian film “Mi Primera Novia” 

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Hear Dean Reed sing the theme song from BUCKAROO, in Italian, from a 1970 Soviet TV broadcast:

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Watch the classic 1967 Dean Reed Euro-western, in a beautiful print:

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And for a little context on who Dean Reed was, here is the acclaimed documentary AMERICAN REBEL: THE DEAN REED story. Reed grew up in the 1950’s just a few miles down the road in Colorado from where I grew up  many years later….

June 13, 2020

The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners, Volume 1: The Tracy & Sawyer Military Comedies (Classic Flix DVD)

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The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners, Volume 1: The Tracy & Sawyer Military Comedies (Classic Flix DVD)

contains the following  six 5-reel feature films

TANKS A MILLION (1941)

HAY FOOT (1942)

ABOUT FACE (1942)

FALL IN (1943)

YANKS AHOY (1943)

HERE COMES TROUBLE (1948, in Cinecolor)

starring WILLIAM TRACY (“Terry”‘ in the serial version of the comic strip TERRY AND THE PIRATES) and JOE SAWYER

supporting players in the films (some more than once) include Noah Beery, Jr., Margaret Dumont, James Gleason, Douglas Fowley, and Frank Faylen

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The short feature running around 35-45 minutes—-longer than a short subject but shorter than a one-hour programmer—-has always been an appealing phenomenon to me. They were also appealing to exhibitors, in that they allowed for more showings of a double-bill per day, meaning more money in the till. Also, they did not wear out their welcome. In the 30’s we had films such as the Bud’n’Ben western shorts (pairing western comic and perennial sidekick Ben Corbett with a leading-man cowboy such as Wally Wales or Jack Perrin…. titles include Potluck Pards, Nevada Cyclone, Romance Revier, Pals of the Prairie, Arizona Nights, Rainbow Riders, Ridin’ Gents, West on Parade, and Girl Trouble….I had 3 or 4 of them on VHS back in the 80’s, and some of them are presently available from Sinister Cinema…none are on You Tube, unfortunately) which ran around the half-hour mark, and short features running under 50 minutes such as the 1934 INSIDE INFORMATION (see end of post for a link to that).

Even the 1929 crime short-feature THE LINE-UP, which I posted a link to here a few weeks ago, would qualify, as would some of the extremely short western features of Victor Adamson or Robert J. Horner.

In the early 40’s, after Laurel and Hardy had moved on, producer/studio head Hal Roach created the term “Streamliner” for feature films made on the Roach lot and distributed by United Artists, which ran between 40 and 50 minutes. Roach made 22 of these, and all 22 are going to be reissued on DVD, from Roach studio archival materials, by Classic Flix, a company known to me previously for their wonderful collection of the five PRC “Michael Shayne, Detective” films starring Hugh Beaumont as Shayne.

The first set from Classic Flix is now out and features the six military comedies starring William Tracy as the lovable and bumbling bookworm Sgt. Doubleday and Joe Sawyer as the always-mad and flustered Sgt. Ames (think of Tracy as a Harry Langdon with a photographic memory, and Sawyer as a slow-burn exasperated character like Edgar Kennedy in his comedy shorts, but more angry).

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Although their 20’s and 30’s glory days were just a memory by 1941, Roach’s “lot of fun” was still firing on all cylinders as a comedy factory when they made the Tracy-Sawyer films. They move as quickly as Roach comedy shorts but allow for more of a plot and more comic set-ups, even though they are over before you know it. The supporting players such as Noah Berry, Jr. and James Gleason are first-rate comedy talents themselves (Berry had a 40+ year career and is known and loved by millions as James Garner’s father in The Rockford Files TV show).

Most of the plots revolve around the trusting and friendly Sgt. Doubleday winning friends and admiration from the military brass and the ladies, with his senior sergeant, Ames, trying to take him down a few pegs and show off, both of which he fails at…miserably. This formula worked quite well through all six films (and there were two more, distributed by Lippert Pictures in the post-WWII period, not included here). If you can imagine a combination between a classic Roach two-reeler and Abbott and Costello’s BUCK PRIVATES (surely an inspiration for Roach to ride the coattails of), that’s what you get here, with no padding of any kind. Anyone who enjoys 30’s Roach comedy shorts and Abbott and Costello should enjoy these films….and this set from Classic Flix. More sets of Roach Streamliners will be coming this year on DVD, the next being a series totally unknown to me, western comedies starring Noah Beery Jr. and Jimmy Rogers (a son of Will Rogers, though not the same man as Will Rogers, Jr.), scheduled for release at the end of June. I’m looking forward to it!

Speaking of Robert Lippert, he also produced 40 minute (more or less) features with his pre-Lippert Pictures outfit Screen Guild Productions, circa 1947-48, a series of four Mountie films starring Russell Hayden (which are available from VCI as a set and which I really enjoyed), and a series of two detective films, THE HAT BOX MYSTERY and THE CASE OF THE BABY SITTER, starring Tom Neal as private eye Russ Ashton, with the ever-bumbling Allen Jenkins as his sidekick. THE HAT BOX MYSTERY is on You Tube, and THE CASE OF THE BABY SITTER is on one of the Kit Parker Films’ FORGOTTEN NOIR sets.

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You need some “streamliners” in your life, so I’m sharing links for two PD ones, mentioned above, which are on You Tube. First, the Tom Neal detective film THE HAT BOX MYSTERY, from 1947:

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and when you’re through watching that,

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the 48-minute feature film from 1934 INSIDE INFORMATION, starring REX LEASE and TARZAN, THE POLICE DOG, an old favorite of mine (I reviewed this online about 20-25 years ago, but alas, it’s no longer up and I don’t have a copy of the review…and yes, I did try the Wayback Machine)….

June 2, 2020

Stay-At-Home Film #8, Le trésor des hommes bleus / Il Tesoro dei Barbari (France, 1961), starring Lex Barker

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Le trésor des hommes bleus / Il Tesoro dei Barbari (France, 1961)

starring Lex Barker, Marpessa Dawn (from Black Orpheus), Frank Villard, Odile Versios, and (uncredited) Walter Barnes

directed by Edmond Agabra

French language

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Lex Barker pretty much moved his acting career to Europe permanently in 1958 and then starred in 42 international productions until 1970, when he moved back to the USA and worked in TV guest shots until his premature passing in 1973 at the age of 54.

I’m happy to see that my blog posts on Barker’s films get regular hits year after year from his many fans around the world. Here is a film that is new to me, and I’ve never seen an English-friendly version of it on offer in 40+ years, but an excellent quality French-language copy is presently on You Tube and I highly recommend it.

This film comes after his run of Italian productions such as Pirates of the Coast and Secret of the Black Falcon, but before the two Dr. Mabuse films made in Germany, and before his resurrection as a major star through the series of Winnetou westerns with Pierre Brice.

Le trésor des hommes bleus is a French production shot entirely on location in Morocco, in both the beautiful coastal city of Mogador/Essaouria and in interior desert areas, with many Moroccan locals in supporting roles. One source states that the film is basically a French production, with the Spanish co-producers needed on paper in order to take money out of Morocco at the time, but not actively involved in the production. It certainly plays more like a French film than a Spanish one (Barker’s MISSION IN MOROCCO from 1959, though shot in English, was essentially a Spanish production and looks like one).

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Director Edmond Agabra is a new name to me, but he was assistant director on the Academy Award-winning 1956 short THE RED BALLOON, and Le trésor des hommes bleus has some of the same striking use of color and magical sense of place. His only other credit as director (and not assistant or second-unit) is a 1989 family Christmas film with marionettes, which has zero reviews on the IMDB!

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Barker plays Fred, an American adventurer (as I’m watching this in French, I’m sure some of the finer plot points are evading me) in the Mediterranean who befriends a sailor (Walter Barnes) and a French businessman and his daughter, who is attracted to Barker. He is part of a caravan heading toward the interior, and when he gets separated from the others, he stumbles across a community who all dress in blue. It turns out that there is a hidden treasure in this area, and a seedy character in the caravan named Fernandez, with whom Barker trades barbs and blows a number of times, is after this treasure by any means necessary. Barker being the attractive and virile man he is, there is another lady also interested in him, a local villager played by Marpessa Dawn, star of the classic BLACK ORPHEUS (who, I just discovered, was born in Pittsburgh! I always assumed she was French or perhaps from a French colonial possession), a lady who radiates charm (looking at her credits, I see that she had a small role in Dusan Makevejev’s infamous 1974 SWEET MOVIE, though that did not register with me at the time when I saw it—-there were too many bizarre and disgusting images in the film for me to notice the supporting cast, although it had others such as John Vernon (!!!) and George Melly in it!), and was an excellent choice for this role as she steals every scene she is in, seemingly effortlessly.

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The plot unspools in some interesting and unexpected ways (which I won’t give away) while at the same time hearkening back to the well-known world of older adventure serials and pulp stories. Barker here is in the tradition of B-movie adventure heroes such as Rod Cameron, and for much of the film he wears a loose and billowing white shirt which exposes a good bit of his athletic chest, in case you forget he was once Tarzan. Barker worked a lot in these exotic European adventure programmers set in a Colonial fantasy world, and he exudes just the right combination of thoughtfulness (he was a multi-lingual Ivy League man, after all), ruggedness, and wit to make him convincing in these films–no wonder he made so many.

In addition to the location shooting and many locals in supporting roles, the production design is quite impressive here, as is the photography. Though not a high-budget film, what interiors there are suggest, through colored lighting and use of small and suggestive details in the set dressings, much more than the producers could afford to depict. Every franc spent is on the screen.

The community of the “hommes bleus,”  when the film finally stays rooted there at about the halfway point, is peopled with local Moroccans who may well be doing for the cameras some variation on an indigenous celebratory dance-music program—-it would be interesting to know the backstory there.

In any event, Le trésor des hommes bleus / Il Tesoro dei Barbari is an entertaining and well-made escapist adventure and one of the least-known films in Lex Barker’s career.

It’s available in French on You Tube, and you can program (through the settings tab at the bottom of the screen, which looks like a gear) auto-translated English subtitles to give you an idea of the plot and its developments, but once you’ve got that, it’s not a film that requires a lot of linguistic information to provide characterization and explanation of incidents. Barker and the main actors went into this project knowing it would be dubbed into various languages, as did the writers, so even if you have minimal French, you can watch this and get carried away with it, forgetting what language it’s in.

A link is below….enjoy!

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May 14, 2020

Stay-At-Home Film #7, ZORRO ALLA CORTE DI SPAGNA (Italy, 1962), starring Giorgio Ardisson

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ZORRO ALLA CORTE DI SPAGNA (Zorro In The Court Of Spain)

Italy 1962, directed by Luigi Capuano

starring George/Giorgio/Georges Adrisson, with Alberto Lupo, Livio Lorenzon, Nadia Marlowa, Franco Fantasia, Maria Letizia Gazzoni, Carlo Tamberlani

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About 5 years ago, I acquired a DVD-R of a beautiful widescreen version of this film recorded off Italian cable TV (undoubtedly at 3 a.m.), upgrading my old pan-and-scan VHS tape. I enjoyed re-visiting the film earlier today and thought I’d look it up online before making any comments about it….and once again, I see that I myself reviewed it online about 20 years ago! So let me share those comments from 2003:

FUN, COLORFUL ITALIAN SWASHBUCKLER WITH ARDISSON AS ZORRO

First, this is definitely NOT a western. This Zorro is NOT like the Republic serial. It’s set in the Spain (Lusitania in the English version!) of the mid 1800s and is in the costumed swashbuckler vein. The name of Zorro’s alter ego seems to have been changed in the English dubbing also, as he is called “Senor Martin” throughout, not Riccardo as in the original Italian. That said, the film is a lighthearted, colorful action romp with Ardisson turning on his boyish charm in both roles–the powerful, slick, romantic Zorro, and his prissy, spoiled, wiseass alter ego Martin. I’m reminded of the bored, spoiled way that Robert Lowery played Bruce Wayne in the 1949 Batman and Robin serial. Watching Zorro make buffoons out of the members of the Spanish royal court is very entertaining. Director Luigi Capuano’s films are usually very rich visually, with lots of vibrant color, and this one is no exception. The usual suspects appear in supporting roles here: Livio Lorenzon (NOT with shaved head!), fencing master Franco Fantasia, Alberto Lupo, Gianni Rizzo, Carlo Tamberlani. My copy is titled ZORRO AT THE COURT OF SPAIN, but there are also English language prints with the title THE MASKED CONQUEROR. Overall, a swashbuckling romp where you can tell the actors, especially Ardisson, are having fun themselves–it’s contagious.

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Not much to add to that today, except to say that I’ve now watched probably 16-18 other films Ardisson starred in (out of 64 total), from a long career running from 1959-1992, and whether working in the Peplum, Eurospy, Eurowestern, Giallo, Crime, or whatever genre, he’s always memorable and can play a wide variety of roles. He’s also distinctive-looking. You may be interested to know that he played Zorro again in 1968 (someone must have enjoyed his 1962 portrayal here!) in ZORRO THE FOX, where he’s teamed with the always-satisfying Giacomo Rossi-Stuart in a film that’s VERY different from this one and plays like a typical violent late 60’s Italian western, although some scenes echo the feel of the old Disney Zorro TV series–it’s a curious mixture, though very watchable, and you can watch ZORRO THE FOX below, though it’s not subtitled in English:

 

Getting back to ZORRA IN THE COURT OF SPAIN, it has the kind of “storybook” feel that I’ve discussed elsewhere in regards to the German children’s films imported to the USA by K. Gordon Murray and also peplum films such as VENGEANCE OF URSUS.

It’s quite different from the two 1962 Zorro films made in Spain and starring expatriate American actor FRANK LATIMORE in the role. I have a half-finished blog entry on those two films, which I need to kick myself over the summer to finish. Those Latimore films exist in a universe of their own.

Then there is BEHIND THE MASK OF ZORRO, from around the same time with another American, TONY RUSSEL (aka Tony Russo, aka Tony Russell) in the role, also highly recommended.

Then there is the late 60’s Franco and Ciccio tribute to Zorro with, of all people, DEAN REED in the role, which I also have a half-finished blog entry on and which I highly recommend.

Unlike the 1968 version with Ardisson, this 1962 production is family-friendly. It’s also fast-moving, full of swordplay and (low-budget) pageantry, and features a charismatic lead and colorful supporting cast. Check it out if you can, while stuck at home…and travel to Spain in the wintertime (you can see the steam/smoke coming out of the actors’ mouths when they speak).

European genre-film fans can watch pretty much anything starring Ardisson and enjoy it. Why not enter his name at You Tube and see what you come up with….alas, the film I’m discussing today is not available there.

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April 24, 2020

Stay-At-Home Film #6, NORMAN CONQUEST aka Park Plaza 605 (UK, 1953), starring Tom Conway and Eva Bartok

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NORMAN CONQUEST (UK release title Park Plaza 605)

starring TOM CONWAY, EVA BARTOK, Joy Shelton, Sidney James, and Anton Diffring

directed by Bernard Knowles (cinematographer for Alfred Hitchcock on SECRET AGENT and THE 39 STEPS!)

based on one of the “Norman Conquest” detective novels by Berkeley Gray

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The 60-to-70 minute crime-mystery programmer film is an interesting and unique artistic form—-like a Petrarchan sonnet, or a 12-bar blues song, or a Durango Kid western, or an Andy Warhol 40″ x 40″ commissioned portrait, it’s got strict parameters within which it must work, and like a baseball runner, it has to hit all the bases for the run to be scored. However, within those guidelines, an infinite number of possibilities can be explored in small and almost unnoticeable ways, and also the creators can seem to touch all the bases, with artistic sleight-of-hand making the audience think they have while going in other directions. In the UK, these crime-mystery programmers were called “quota quickies” (Google that term, and you can see how the phenomenon happened and why) or “second features,” intended as filler to support the A-picture. Ironically, in many cases these lean and efficient programmers have dated much better than the “main” features they accompanied because they set out to do something well-defined and achieved what they set out to do. The grace notes and small details they often provide are just icing on the cake.

This particular one runs a bit longer than usual (75 minutes) and stars TOM CONWAY, best-known for his wonderful FALCON mysteries, taking over for his brother George Sanders. Conway is one of the great masters of being casual and suave on-screen. It’s REALLY hard to pull that off. As I mentioned in my piece on the Memphis Jug Band, simply recording a party does not make a record that comes across as a party on 78 rpm record. It is a very particular contrivance to SUGGEST a party. Similarly, you could have someone casual on screen (think Jan-Michael Vincent in his later “guest star” period) who just looks bored. You have to project casual and project jaded charm. Tom Conway is great at that, and he’s great doing that in this film, which is very much a vehicle for him.

It’s based upon a character, Norman Conquest, featured in many British novels, but that character is a bit younger than Conway was here, and frankly, whoever wrote the film brought over most of Conway’s tropes and mannerisms from the Falcon movies….and why not, since it was less than ten years after that series ended and Conway was still in fine form, although a bit older. However, that kind of casual charm does not require a 30 year old, and it does mellow and ripen with age.

As with the TWIST ALL NIGHT film covered here recently, NORMAN CONQUEST is a film I reviewed online 15-20 years ago, which I discovered when I Googled it. Here is that review:

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ENTERTAINING UK-MADE TOM CONWAY MYSTERY

This review is of the US release of the film, under the title NORMAN CONQUEST. One of the many interesting UK pick-ups released by the fading Lippert Pictures in the early 50’s to pad its schedule, this mystery should satisfy any fan of B-movie mysteries. Star Tom Conway made a big impression as the Falcon on film and Sherlock Holmes on radio (taking over from Basil Rathbone), and his charm and wit and style pretty much make any film he is in worth watching. The Conquest character–evidently well-known in the UK as there is no attempt to “introduce” his character in the film–has elements of Boston Blackie and the Thin Man and The Shadow (the interplay with his jealous fiancee is very Shadow-like) and Ellery Queen. He is a financially stable dabbler in detection and has a nemesis within the police force who always seeks to get him out of the way. This film should get some kind of record as the mystery begins in an outrageous manner within the first ten seconds of the film! I couldn’t believe it, but you have to take films like this one with a LOT of willing suspension of disbelief, and if you go along for the ride, it’s quite a bit of fun. There’s still one thing I’m not sure about, though. In the scene where Conway spanks Eva Bartok, what is that little clown-like figure in the corner of the room? It’s only seen once and never explained. I rewound the tape to watch the scene a few times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. What’s going on here? In conclusion, a solid little mystery here, and one of Tom Conway’s last starring roles.

online review by Bill Shute from May 2003

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There’s not a wasted shot or moment or line of dialogue in the film, and Knowles was able to use some of the ingenuity he picked up as Hitchcock’s DP, which comes in handy with this being a relatively low-budget film. For instance, the neon light flash coming through the window (you never see the actual light outside) at random intervals in the room at Park Plaza 605 is an effect that cost next to nothing, but adds a bit of tension and mystery as it hits upon both the characters and the furniture and the walls of the room. Watching the film again, I noticed many small touches like that.

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Those who enjoy the Falcon films with Tom Conway and those who enjoy the 50’s British crime/mystery second-feature should find NORMAN CONQUEST a worthwhile investment of 75 minutes. Some online commentators have found the film’s plot ridiculous (ridiculous sometimes means more entertaining, since this is definitely NOT a police procedural) and others have complained about Conway’s age, but both of those qualities are endearing to me. The cup is half-full, not half-empty.

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The British DVD of the film (undoubtedly a better print than my copy!)

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One of the Norman Conquest novels by Berkeley Gray

 

April 22, 2020

Stay-At-Home Film #5, HIGH SEASON FOR SPIES / Comando de asesinos (Spain, 1966) starring Peter Van Eyck and Antonio Vilar, directed by Julio Coll

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HIGH SEASON FOR SPIES / Comando de asesinos (Spain, 1966)

starring Peter Van Eyck and Antonio Vilar

directed by Julio Coll

Spanish language, shot on location in Lisbon, Portugal

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The light-hearted, action-filled 1966 Spanish spy-espionage film COMANDO DE ASESINOS / HIGH SEASON FOR SPIES was quite a pleasant suprise. Director JULIO COLL is responsible for the 1964 PYRO with Barry Sullivan and Martha Hyer (mentioned in my recent comments on MISTRESS OF THE WORLD here, a few weeks ago) and the 1968 THE NARCO MEN (released in the US in 1970, when I became aware of it) with Tom Tryon, so with him at the helm and Peter Van Eyck as one of the stars, I sought the film out, and I’m glad I did.

Essentially, it’s the story of a scientist with a new formula for an advanced form of steel, who is being pursued by many different criminal organizations and foreign spies (that’s why the German title suggest SIX GUNS after the professor). The two leads, Peter Van Eyck as an American (!!!) intelligence agent, and Antonio Vilar as “Dick Haskins” (the film is based on a novel about that character), a kind of British-spy parody who has his own TV show in the UK and is somewhat bumbling, but gets the job done and manages to outflank his enemies through his off-the-wall strategies! Haskins is kind of loopy but sauve, and Vilar (who I’ve seen in other films in diverse roles—for instance, he’s the co-star of HAVE A GOOD FUNERAL MY FRIEND, SARTANA WILL PAY with Gianni Garko) does that kind of comedy well. Van Eyck is also perfect for this role, with his urbane charm and a gift for comedy that wasn’t taken advantage of that often.

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The film is shot on location in Lisbon, and makes a point of showing us many of the tourist spots, so it’s a priceless view of 1965 Lisbon, many people’s favorite European city.

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Director Coll is certainly an Orson Welles fan—-the opening scene (which I’ll let you experience for yourself) is as stylized and bizarrely shot as something out of THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI or the “shadow on the docks moving toward us while walking away” shot from MR. ARKADIN. And speaking of ARKADIN, Van Eyck was one of the stars of that film, and there is a scene with Van Eyck in a German sports car on a desolate lot/track that clearly references one of the final scenes in Arkadin….using the same actor, Peter Van Eyck, who was in the original. One assumes that both director and star got a laught out of that, and it certainly brought a smile to my face.

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I’ve never seen an English version of this film on offer in collector’s circles the last 30 years, and the posters/lobby cards I can find online tend to be either German or Spanish. My copy is in Spanish, with minimal but accurate subtitles, which are important because there is a lot of verbal jousting between the two leads, and it’s deliciously played. I need to see more comic performances from Van Eyck, someone who always seems to bring the right tone to a part.

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Check him out in the Hammer film THE SNORKEL for a change of pace that’s not comedic in any way!

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HIGH SEASON FOR SPIES is not a typical Euro-spy film, and though a comedy, it’s not as broadly played as something like IN LIKE FLINT. The meat of the film is the two leads alternately helping other while trying to one-up each other….or trying to interest the same woman.

In lockdown mode here, I must say that I was completely entertained by HIGH SEASON FOR SPIES / Comando de asesinos, watching it twice in the last week and then checking out a number of scenes again this afternoon. If you can find it….and love Lisbon or Peter Van Eyck or the variations on the Euro-spy genre, then it’s well worth your time.

April 19, 2020

Stay-At-Home Film #4, TWIST ALL NIGHT (aka Continental Twist), starring Louis Prima (US, 1961)

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TWIST ALL NIGHT (also released as CONTINENTAL TWIST)

starring Louis Prima, Sam Butera and The Witnesses, and June Wilkinson

released in 1961 by American International Pictures as a pick-up from Prima’s own production company (with his then-wife Keely Smith)

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I’ve rarely met a twist record, or twist movie, I didn’t like, and I’ve been collecting both as long as I can remember. Outside of the names most associated with The Twist—-its creator, Hank Ballard, and its best-known musical exponents, Chubby Checker and Joey Dee–hundreds of other artists made twist records, the world over (just yesterday I was listening to the fine twist LP by society bandleader Lester Lanin!). Perhaps the most under-rated is the one by Steve Alaimo, which you should find a copy of immediately. Louis Prima also seized upon the twist, doing a twist album for Dot (as did his spouse Keely Smith) and also this low-budget twist film, an independent production released by AIP.

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When I went to do a little research on the film for this write-up, imagine my surprise when I see that I had reviewed it online 18 years ago! Here’s that review:

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LOW BUDGET TWIST MUSICAL, GREAT FOR FANS OF LOUIS PRIMA

This z-grade Twist musical stars (and was made by the production company of) the great trumpeter/vocalist/band-leader/personality Louis Prima, backed by the equally great Sam Butera and the Witnesses. In fact, Butera gets a lot of screen time here.

The old “small club is about to lose its lease but people who believe in the music band together to keep the club open and in the meantime win everyone over to their music” plot is trotted out once again– it was used in the mid-50s rock’n’roll movies and in early 40s swing movies too, and it works well here. But then, you are watching a movie like this because you like the Twist and/or Louis Prima’s music, and on that level it delivers the goods. Legendary Playboy model June Wilkinson looks beautiful as Prima’s girlfriend, the music is hot, and as a vehicle for Prima’s antics the film is a complete success. Some people complain that Prima–who made his recording debut in the early-mid 1930s!–is much too old to do the twist, but he is one of the fathers of rock’n’roll (especially those “jive” artists such as Jimmy Cavallo, Charlie Gracie, Mike Pedicin, etc.) and since his act is based on self-parody anyway and he never takes himself seriously, I can’t see anyone having a problem with that.

Unless you like Prima and the Twist, though, you’d probably hate the film. It’s shot on two minimal sets, basically, and is as static as a Barry Mahon film. However, for me that only adds to the charm (who needs complex camera work when you are basically seeing Prima do his show and do some light comedy?). Perhaps someone will release this on DVD?

(review originally published in 2002)

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Watching the film again in late April 2020, I find it a wonderfully entertaining B&W blast, with wall-to-wall music, the jive-talking antics of Prima and Butera, echoing their legendary stage act without the viewer having to travel to Vegas or Atlantic City, and the charm of June Wilkinson, who has worked in many aspects of the entertainment industry since the late 1950’s, and who has both an upbeat screen presence and good comic timing.

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Someone else who’s written about the film online suggested that Prima and Butera should have been in a haunted house movie with the Bowery Boys, and if that concept appeals to you, and you like basic raw rock and roll delivered with a jive attitude, you can’t help but enjoy this 76 minute feature, which never wears out its welcome and has outrageous plot complications that will put a smile on your face after a long workday. It will also annoy holier-than-thou philistines who will point out how primitive and noisy and shallow it is, not realizing that those are exactly the film’s selling points. Louis Prima knew how to market himself and what his public enjoyed, and he gave it to them in spades.

If you’d like to see his twist-era shtick in a film that’s on the same garage-y level as ROCK BABY ROCK IT!, then here’s your chance.

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Director William J. Hole, Jr., worked primarily in television….a lot!…but his name was ringing a bell in the back of my mind, and checking his filmography, I now see why…he was director of the classic GHOST OF DRAGSTRIP HOLLOW, as well as other films I’ve enjoyed that seem aimed at the same kind of audience, SPEED CRAZY with Brett Halsey, and THE DEVIL’S HAND with Robert Alda and Linda Christian. He also directed fine episodes of SURFSIDE SIX and BOURBON STREET BEAT….and if that’s not enough, he was associate producer of 449 (!!!!!) episodes of PEYTON PLACE.

He no doubt was reliable and punctual and got the film in the can quickly and moved on to better-paying studio projects.

I’ve watched this film every 3 years or so for the last 25 years. It delivers the goods…if these are the kind of goods you want.

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Below is a link to a clip from the film that will show you EXACTLY what you’re going to get, along with some on-the-money remarks about Prima and the film from the late great Nick Tosches, always a champion of Prima as an unsung hero of rock and roll, which he certainly was!

 

April 11, 2020

Stay-At-Home Film #3: TUTTO SUL ROSSO (Italy, 1968), starring Brett Halsey

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 3:25 pm
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TUTTO SUL ROSSO (All On The Red), Italy 1968

Italian language (subtitled in English)

starring Brett Halsey, Barbara Zimmerman, Gordon Mitchell, Piero Lulli, Josè Greci (note: Ms. Greci was billed in some sword and sandal films as “Susan Paget” and “Liz Havilland”!!!)

written and directed by Aldo Florio (mostly an assistant director, his best-known film for American audiences would probably be FIVE GIANTS FROM TEXAS (1966), starring Guy Madison, which got a VHS release in the late 80’s from Trans-World Entertainment…)

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No IMDB reviews (yet) for this entertaining heist-caper film set in the world of Italian casinos. It’s not as technically involved with the intricate details of the swindle as, say, GRAND SLAM, but it should appeal to people who enjoy European genre films of the late 60’s, fans of Brett Halsey (and who isn’t?), and fans of films such as FIVE AGAINST THE HOUSE.

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Halsey plays American casino professional and free-lance thief Mike Chapman, always looking for his next big score. In the opening pre-credit sequence, which must run five minutes, Halsey is disguised as an eccentric priest who is in a train cabin with three other men (they are on one side, he is on the other) and the Father slowly eats a modest lunch, piece by piece, taking each item out of his lunch basket. I had no idea what this film was about when I came into it, so I didn’t know where this sequence was going. Let’s just say you’ll be very surprised what the Padre eventually takes out of his lunch basket.

No one does on-the-edge vein-popping anger better than Gordon Mitchell, and here he is the owner  of a casino who has been trying to get Halsey to work for him in GM’s various crooked schemes, but Halsey prefers being a free agent. After making a big score against Mitchell in the first section of the film, Halsey then teams with an on-again, off-again partner, Belinda Duval, played by Barbara Zimmerman (was Margaret Lee not available?), a name new to me. BZ made four films in Europe in the 1968-71 period, and that’s all the credits she has (under that name, at least). As she’s dubbed in the film I can’t tell you if she is of North American or European origin. Half the film she’s a blonde, and half the film she’s a redhead. Halsey then enlists an old friend, Laszlo (played well by a nervous Piero Lulli), who has fallen on hard times (he’s become an alcoholic after the breakup of a relationship with a lounge singer, Yvette, played by peplum film regular Josè Greci) to assist them in an ambitious scheme to rip off a large casino through fixing the roulette wheel and having Halsey pose as another croupier, a Vegas pro named Reikovic).

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The first half of the film sets up the scam, and then when it seems foolproof, things start falling apart—-Mitchell realizes Halsey ripped him off and seeks revenge and the stolen money, the lounge singer re-appears (and sings a song!) and Laszlo falls off the wagon (Halsey agreed to hire him if he’s not drink), there are other peripheral characters who are being fleeced while attempting to fleece the ones doing the fleecing (or are they), Mitchell kidnaps Belinda, and the film’s final 25 minutes or so are non-stop action and twists with a surprising and violent and downbeat ending.

The title TUTTO SUL ROSSO (All On The Red) is perfectly chosen, as it’s clever and appealing in a seductive and ambiguous way before you know what the film is about, and once you do know, it both indicates the setting (the roulette tables) and symbolizes Halsey’s character’s putting everything HE has on a longshot bet. Does he succeed? Yes and no–you’ll have to see it for yourself.

The film manages to inject comedy at the right moments, and there are actually three nightclub entertainment sequences, a good way to lighten the tension between tense and action-filled scenes and to pad the running time, going back to 1940’s crime films (both Columbia and Monogram liked to work nightclub sequences into crime programmers). Brett Halsey brings his magnetic charm and Euro action-adventure credentials to this role (I just saw him in a 50’s Highway Patrol episode the other day, and have seen and enjoyed many of his 60’s-80’s European films) and was an excellent choice for the part.

Unlike Halsey’s SPY IN YOUR EYE, this did not get an American theatrical release, and unlike his ESPIONAGE IN LISBON, it did not play American television. I’m not sure it was even dubbed into English (my copy is in Italian, taped off European cable TV). It should definitely be better known. It’s not what could be called a Eurospy film—-it’s more of a crime-heist film. I can’t really fault the film in any way, and it kept my attention for 90 minutes, putting a smile on my face during Halsey’s priest sequence at the film’s start, and keeping me on the edge of my chair for the final 25 minutes. As Joe Bob Briggs would say, check it out!

April 9, 2020

Stay-At-Home Film #2: KING THRUSHBEARD (presented by K. Gordon Murray, 1954/1968)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 7:11 am
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KING THRUSHBEARD

released in the USA, probably primarily to TV, in 1968 by K. GORDON MURRAY, who created an English language dialogue track at his Soundlab in Coral Gables, Florida….Murray did not dub the songs into English–they were left in the original German

original source film , König Drosselbart , released in West Germany in 1954, directed by Herbert B. Fredersdorf, inspired by the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm

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In the late 1960’s, K. Gordon Murray’s kiddie matinee empire was slipping. He could still re-release some of the better kiddie films for Saturday theatrical showings, but some of the later acquisitions (The Princess and The Swineherd, and also Table, Donkey and Stick) dated back to early-to-mid 1950’s Germany, and some were even in black and white, such as the film under consideration today, KING THRUSHBEARD, which has no verified theatrical showings in the US (not to say they weren’t any in some off-the-beaten-path areas….Murray used a lot of “filler” to complete playbills, and I could imagine this going out with one of the Santa Claus shorts to some backwater town, but I have not evidence of that), and went straight to TV.

He couldn’t advertise the “storybook color” of a B&W film, and in some of these German films from the late period, he did not bother to dub the songs into English (in some of the earlier films, new lyrics were written to match the lips of the actors and new performances were recorded, which could not have been cheap to do). Yes, the songs are in German!

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The fairy tale KING THRUSHBEARD by the Brothers Grimm is still popular, and you can find various adaptations from the last 30 years online. This adaptation is from a 1954 German film that Murray acquired. I’d imagine he got it for a song (an untranslated song in German!), being that it was a 14 year old foreign black and white film. Presumably, he was able to make money on the acquisition and the dubbing costs through TV rentals as part of children’s film packages. Other than dubbing (and there was an existing music and sound effects track, so all that was needed was dialogue) and some minimal and primitive beginning and end titles (which spell some of the names wrong), the only cost was striking 16mm prints for TV stations. If this did not play theatrically in the US, then no 35mm prints may have been made. My copy looks like a transfer from 16mm. I’d assume that in the 1968/69 period, Murray was making more money off of drive-in showings of SHANTY TRAMP and SAVAGES FROM HELL (both original productions, made in Florida) than he was making from films such as KING THRUSHBEARD, but Murray was the man who’d created the mystique of the great showman with his own “wonder world,” so he perhaps felt the need to keep the product coming, coasting on the fumes of his earlier success.

I was ten years old in 1968 and already had a taste both for older black and white films and for foreign dubbed films (I was already a fan of the sword and sandal films shown on my local UHF stations), but I don’t remember KING THRUSHBEARD playing on any station I had access to. I think I would have enjoyed it, though. As for the average child, I’m not so sure. It would depend on how sheltered and insulated the child was on the one hand (come into it with low expectations and be easily impressed), or how off-the-wall the child’s tastes were.

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Since no one reading this is 10 years old, and 1968 is now 52 years ago, how does the film hold up today? Well, just imagine you found in the bottom of a box at some junk store, below old copies of Life magazine and old gas station road maps, a dusty, yellowing 1954 book of stories from the Brothers Grimm, awkwardly translated into English, with black and white photographs illustrating the text. Then imagine  you start falling asleep while reading it, and in that netherworld between waking and sleep, you find the stories coming to life in dated black and white, with stilted translated dialogue and with dated, semi-classical “storybook” music playing in the background. It takes you to another world–not a “real” world (whatever that is), but a stylized replication of a fantasy world seen through the lens of a particular era (early 1950’s) in a certain culture (West Germany—-both halves of the then-Germany produced very interesting and unique and distinctive children’s films in that era), and then run through the meat-grinder, then on its last legs, of K. Gordon Murray’s Florida-based children’s film operation. Somehow, songs sung in German totally fit such a “storybook” film based on a work by the Brothers Grimm and I’d imagine that had I seen this as a ten-year-old, I’d probably have felt unconsciously something like “the characters are German, so they are singing German songs–no problem there.”

In today’s strange world, KING THRUSHBEARD, the K.  Gordon Murray import version, is oddly comforting and entertaining. Let’s hope a copy of it survives for future generations to gaze at in wonder….

If you’d like to read about another German children’s import “presented by” K.  Gordon Murray, this time a color film made in East Germany in the 1960’s, here a link to my review of THE GOLDEN GOOSE at BTC, originally published in August 2019:

Bill Shute review of K. Gordon Murray’s THE GOLDEN GOOSE at BTC

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April 6, 2020

Stay-At-Home Film #1: MISTRESS OF THE WORLD (Germany, 1960)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 7:05 pm
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Recently on the KSE Facebook page, I listed 20 albums I listened to over a 4 or 5 day period. Since I’m now “working at home” due to the Coronavirus and try not to go out much, I was listening to more music than ever. I do “work” all day from home and am connected to Zoom, but there’s no commute, etc., so I wind up with more time for myself. Some of that time each day, I’m exercising. I’m also watching more films.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some info on the next 20 films I will watch. Comments will be kept to a minimum. I hope to introduce you to a number of worthwhile films you might not be aware of, or if you’ve heard of them, might not have seen. Here is the first:


 

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MISTRESS OF THE WORLD (aka in German: Die Herrin der Welt, French: Les mystères d’Angkor, Italian: Il mistero dei tre continenti), Germany 1960. Notice that the Mexican lobby card above changes MISTRESS to MYSTERIES, as surely MYSTERIES OF THE WORLD would sell more tickets than MISTRESS!

Directed by William Dieterle (film completed by cinematographer Richard Angst)

Starring Martha Hyer, Carlos Thompson, Sabu, Lino Ventura, Micheline Presle

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Running time of the French language version, 122 minutes.

I acquired a French-language copy of this unique film about five years ago. Watching about half of it then, I felt it was curiously old-fashioned and it reminded me in some ways of a 1930’s or 1940’s serial, minus the cliffhanger chapter endings and the over-the-top mysterious masked villain. Stuck at home now, I decided to give it another try a few days ago, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Also, doing a little research, I see that it was a remake of a 1919 German serial! One wonders if it was made after the success of Fritz Lang’s two-part Indian epic from 1958 starring Debra Paget. That too felt like a serial and was directed by a German who’d been working in Hollywood for decades but who came back home to direct an old-fashioned genre film with an exotic international setting. William Dieterle directed many successful films in the Hollywood studio system, perhaps most memorably the 1939 version of the HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME starring Charles Laughton. Evidently, he walked off this film during location shooting in Cambodia during the final days of shooting and the cinematographer finished it.

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It starts off as almost a science-fiction film then veers off into espionage then (during the parts in Marseilles, France, with Lino Ventura doing his patented tough cop-abusing-suspects while maintaining his cool routine) police action then Southeast Asian mystery then goes in an almost spiritual direction shot on location at the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia.

One of a number of interesting foreign films made by Martha Hyer in the 1960’s (also recommended are PYRO with Barry Sullivan, made in Spain, and HOUSE OF 1000 DOLLS with George Nader and Vincent Price, made “offshore” in Asia by legendary producer Harry Alan Towers), MISTRESS OF THE WORLD also gives a meaty part to Indian-American actor SABU, for once wearing a business suit, playing a scientist, and not playing the usual “movie Indian” in jungle adventures and Kipling-esque tales. In some ways, he is truly the hero of the film, along with the Argentinian actor Carlos Thompson. For the final half hour of the film, he shaves his head and becomes a holy man in the Angkor Wat temple, negotiating the climactic scenes at the film’s end. He was probably quite proud of his work here.

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There are multiple versions of the film. In Germany, like the Lang film mentioned above, this was presented as two feature films over two nights, running for a total of three hours. There is also a version running around 90 minutes, presumably focusing on the “action.” The French print (where, understandably, Micheline Presle is top-billed) I own runs 122 minutes. With the episodic nature of the film, one could add or subtract any number of scenes that don’t involve key plot points and no one would be the wiser.

Another observation about MISTRESS OF THE WORLD is that I can’t remember a film I’ve seen in the last 6 months that features key characters killed off out of the blue when one is least expecting it. This happens to three of them. I actually cried aloud, “what?,” even though no one else was in the room.

Sinister Cinema offers an English-language version of this, taken from 16mm, probably a TV print. The French-language version I have features rich color, an excellent transfer, and looks like it was shot yesterday.

As a conscious homage to serial-style film making, in the pre- James Bond/Dr. No era, we can forgive the outrageously hyperbolic music that telegraphs suspense with a sledgehammer anytime a sinister character walks into a room or someone crosses a busy street.

Stuck at home, I also appreciated the travelogue aspect of the film, in beautiful color and widescreen….I’m not going to be getting to Stockholm, Marseilles, Nice, Bangkok, and Cambodia soon, and all these areas are full of choice local details and culture in their presentation here.

I came into this film with few expectations, but it kept me occupied for over two hours, it threw me many curves, it was well-paced but also leisurely in a good way, and it ended on a positive note with even a twist of spiritual depth to it.

For an old-fashioned adventure film that’s got both feet planted firmly in the 1950’s (despite its 1960 release date), MISTRESS OF THE WORLD was quite good and worthwhile. Catch it if you can find it and you’re so inclined….

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April 3, 2020

BILLY HALOP in a 1958 episode of YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 8:03 pm
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BILLY HALOP with Humphrey Bogart

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It’s been a good week for this fan of BILLY HALOP, former leader of THE DEAD END KIDS and LITTLE TOUGH GUYS (the pre-Bowery Boys movie gangs….Leo Gorcey replaced Halop as the leader of the bunch when they moved to Monogram as the EAST SIDE KIDS). First, I catch him as a sniveling, gun-crazy punk who takes an entire hospital hostage (!!!!) on an episode of the HIGHWAY PATROL. Then, on a random 1958 episode of the classic YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR radio crime show I listened to tonight while exercising, Billy gets a plum role, as an ex-criminal who’s gone straight and is now an insurance agent….for retired criminals! As always, he’s instantly recognizable within five seconds with his raspy voice, and his tough-guy stance comes through clearly even on a radio show. What Billy Halop was, though, for 30+ years, was a fine character actor. Yes, he was typecast, and that New York accent wasn’t going away, no matter how long he lived and worked on the West Coast, but he ALWAYS gave the producers their money’s worth, which is surely the reason he worked steadily. It’s great finding him in a PERRY MASON episode or whatever, where he commands attention and pulls the audience in.

While stuck at home now, why not take 25 minutes to listen to BILLY HALOP work his Little Tough Guy magic on an episode of YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR from 27 April 1958. Billy also had great comic timing, and that’s in evidence here too as his character is almost heart-warming and will put a smile on your face!

 

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Billy as cab driver Bert Munson (with Carroll O’Connor) in All In The Family—-he appeared in 10 episodes as Munson, including the famous Sammy Davis Jr. episode

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Why not watch the entire feature film LITTLE TOUGH GUY and see Halop at his best. Take off your face-mask, crank up You Tube, and settle back….here it is:

 

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And here is the immediately post-World War II Halop in PRC’s bargain-basement attempt at doing a Little Tough Guys/East Side Kids/Bowery Boys-style franchise, THE GAS HOUSE KIDS, from 1946. Enjoy! Also stars the great Robert Lowery, 3 years before his turn as BATMAN (he is still my favorite Batman), in the 1949 serial BATMAN AND ROBIN, and Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, of Little Rascals/Our Gang fame. The entire film is linked to below:

 

Stay indoors…. stay safe!

March 15, 2020

John Gilbert’s recipe for Clam Chowder (1927)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 8:56 pm
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Taking a break from work, I was catching up on a silent film discussion list where someone posted John Gilbert’s recipe for clam chowder from the 1927 PHOTOPLAY COOK BOOK, which featured recipes of the stars (there is also a 1929 volume, which I’ve seen). I did a little online sleuthing and found a scan of the entire book from a Canadian library.

John Gilbert is my favorite silent-film leading man, and he went on to do fine work in the early sound era too, up through his final film, the bizarre but totally entertaining 1934 ensemble cast feature THE CAPTAIN HATES THE SEA.

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I love clam chowder and can attest that this is a good solid recipe. You could always add a small amount of something of your own, but Gilbert has got the basic recipe down with the small touches like bacon and pepper and parsley and real butter. You can easily buy canned chopped clams (instead of the two dozen clams he mentions), which would make the job a lot easier and would not really hurt the end result any….and the clam juice (or liquor, as Gilbert calls it) in the can is perfect for chowder. You could also pick up a bottle of clam juice at most supermarkets, to make your recipe even richer and more flavorful, as it is available for mixed drinks. I will often use a bottle when I’m making rice to make a kind of clam rice. Anyway, here is Gilbert’s recipe, copied and pasted from the book….

Clam Chowder 


JOHN GILBERT 


2 doz. clams 
1 cup water 
3 large potatoes 
2 slices bacon 
1 onion 
1 quart milk 
2 tablespoons butter 
2 tablespoons flour 
1 teaspoon parsley 
1 teaspoon salt 
Crackers 
Pepper 


Fry diced bacon and chopped onion together. Add clam liquor, 
water and diced potatoes. Cook until tender. Add clams and milk. 
Thicken with butter and flour creamed together. Pour chowder over 
crackers and sprinkle with chopped parsley. 


Sponsored by Mr, Gilbert, clam chowder is due for a big revival 
in popularity. And it's good, too. 

You would certainly want whole milk for this, not 2% or skim, and if you don’t have to worry about calories or cholesterol, you could use half and half instead! Talk about rich!

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Greta Garbo and John Gilbert

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trailer for Gilbert’s 1933 feature FAST WORKERS, with Robert Armstrong (same year as RA starred in King Kong!)

 

 

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Many of John Gilbert’s best-known films from the 1920’s, including the ones where he is paired with his friend and companion Greta Garbo, were made for MGM and are not available for free online….however, they ARE available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive. However, here is one in its entirety, Erich Von Stroheim’s THE MERRY WIDOW from 1925, starring Mae Murray and Gilbert, the film Von Stroheim made after GREED. It’s 137 minutes long, so make a cup of coffee and settle back in a comfortable chair….

 

 

Kino (before they were merged into Kino-Lorber) did a wonderful release of two Gilbert classics on DVD many years ago, BARDLEYS THE MAGNIFICENT (1926, directed by King Vidor) and MONTE CRISTO (1922), and the set also includes a documentary on Gilbert, featuring a number of comments from his daughter, Leatrice Gilbert Fountain. It’s highly recommended!

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note: when I was a child, my mother used to make something not unlike Margaret Livingston’s SALMON LOAF, which is on the page after Gilbert’s chowder in the Photoplay cookbook.

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